SEABROOK�� Recently unsealed federal documents indicate the owner of Leather and Lace, Up In Smoke and the Smoking Monkey is being investigated by federal agencies for alleged involvement in the distribution of the federally controlled substance synthetic cannabinoids, known on the street as spice and fake weed.
The documents relate to affidavits supporting federal search warrants issued by the U.S. District Court in Concord to search the premises owned and occupied by Seabrook resident William Walsh.
The warrants resulted in raids late last year on Walsh�s three businesses, as well as two related offices and his home. On Nov. 14, 2019, agents from the federal Department of Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Postal Service and Seabrook Police Department raided the locations, seizing items listed in the affidavits, including cash, products, all types of records, as well as computers and digital devices.
Affidavits for the search warrants detail the joint federal and multi-state investigation that led to law enforcement�s interest in Walsh. The case revolves around his alleged purchase of synthetic cannabinoids for his businesses from three large national suppliers of the illegal substance. The affidavit also offers evidence provided by an undercover investigation conducted by Seabrook police of the sale of synthetic cannabinoids from Walsh�s Seabrook businesses to consumers.
Walsh is alleged to be the second-largest purchaser of synthetic cannabinoids from three national suppliers who did business through the website Aroma Superstore, marketing the controlled substance as “herbal incense.” The affidavit links the website to a number of businesses held in the suppliers� names, such as New World Marketing and Desert Fulfillment and Logistics. Walsh is among customers of the website from across the nation alleged to do business with the suppliers, according to the federal documents.
The affidavits present probable cause for acquiring the search warrants. The probable cause includes law enforcement tracking numerous checks, allegedly signed by Walsh and made payable to New World Marketing and Desert Fulfillment and Logistics to purchase synthetic cannabinoids in the name of his businesses.
According to the search warrant affidavits, $51,280 worth of checks allegedly signed by Walsh were traced to alleged deposits made from January 2017 through December 2018 to one supplier�s bank account. Checks written from August 2018 through April 2019, allegedly signed by Walsh, totaling $129,893 were deposited into another supplier�s account, according to the affidavits.
The incident that triggered the federal investigation by the U.S. Attorney�s Office of East Virginia began in April 2017, when several individuals were hospitalized following their consumption of synthetic cannabinoids. According to the documents, the fake weed was traced to purchases from a convenience store at a gas station in Warrenton, Virginia.
According to the federal search warrant affidavits, by December 2017, search warrants were executed in Virginia, where investigators found and seized seven kilograms of synthetic cannabinoids, worth $420,611. One suspect agreed to become a confidential witness and informant. He told agents he bought the illegal substance from the Aroma Superstore website.
Analyzing bank and business records and performing physical surveillance, investigators identified three people they allege are the “primary targets” and suppliers to the Virginia convenience store.
From this initial investigation, according to the search warrant affidavits, investigators identified Walsh as one of the retail distributors of synthetic cannabinoids who purchased the product from the three primary targets “through their spice business.”
By early 2018, according to the affidavits, following a series of controlled purchases from the Aroma Superstore by investigators, as well as the seizure of evidence, law enforcement found it all tested positive for Schedule 1 controlled substances, including 5-Fluoro-ADB, FUB-AMB, and ADB-FUBINACA, chemical compounds used to make some synthetic cannabinoids.
The federal government banned the chemical substances sprayed on fake weed. Synthetic cannabinoids are marketed as an herbal incense meant to be burned, with notice printed on packages that it is not for human consumption. But it is often smoked, producing an intoxicating high more dangerous and addictive than marijuana, due to the chemicals sprayed on it.
According to the affidavits, overdoses allegedly connected to Walsh�s sale of synthetic cannabinoids also occurred in New Hampshire, with one fatality. According to the affidavit, in September 2018, Seabrook police received notification from the New Hampshire Medical Examiner�s Office that the fatality was caused by “complications of rhabdomyolysis, due to acute intoxication from ADB-FUBINACA.”
Seabrook police were told by a confidential informant that the deceased had smoked Mad Hatter Blueberry spice, allegedly purchased from the Smoking Monkey for $60, according to the affidavits. The informant claimed he�d purchased the same product from the Smoking Monkey and overdosed, resulting in his hospitalization in July 2018. Analysis of the substance in the informant�s package of Mad Hatter Blueberry confirmed the presence of ADB-FUBINACA, according to the federal documents.
In May 2019, Seabrook police received a call from a distressed parent, who said her son overdosed on synthetic cannabinoids, and a family credit card indicated a $15 charge from the Smoking Monkey, according to the affidavits.
The spokesperson from the U.S Attorney�s Office of East Virginia declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.
Seabrook Police Chief Brett Walker said he could not comment on the ongoing investigation.