The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas announced the conclusion of a two-year investigation into a synthetic-marijuana distribution ring being run out of a local business called Done Right AC.
Eight men and one woman have been convicted on a variety of federal drug charges. Eight sentences have been handed down, ranging from six to 18 years in federal prison. The ninth suspect will be sentenced in March.
Those convicted are:
- Charles Warren Callis, age 43, sentenced to 226 months in prison
- Benjamin Llamas, age 35, will be sentenced next month
- Michael Llamas, age 29, sentenced to 260 months in prison
- Victoria Martinez, age 24, sentenced to 220 months in prison
- Joe McNabb, age 30, sentenced to 72 months in prison
- John Perez, age 28, sentenced to 156 months in prison
- Raymond Reyes, age 38, sentenced to 84 months in prison
- James Roye Bryan Townzen, age 30, sentenced to 222 months in prison
- Raymond Shane Townzen, age 29, sentenced to 150 months in prison
The U.S. Attorney's Office said the group sold more than 350 lbs. of drugs through social media sites such as Facebook.
U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick said this was one of the largest homegrown cases of narcotics trafficking in the region. The investigation, dubbed "Operation Done Wrong," began in January 2018 when officials intercepted a package from China intended for Corpus Christi containing synthetic cannabinoid.
Federal officials said further investigation revealed that James Townzen was ordering illicit chemicals from China and manufacturing synthetic marijuana. The drugs would then be sold on by other members in the ring.
That led to "Operation Done Wrong," and the outcome of the investigation was revealed Tuesday. Those involved were ordering illegal chemicals from overseas and distributing the drug at the local air-conditioning business.
Callis, Martinez and Michael Llamas also were convicted on gun charges, and will serve those sentences concurrent to their sentences for possession with intent to distribute.
The Drug Enforcement Agency and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations led the case, with help from the Corpus Christi Police Department.
"Right now, we know this group has been taken off the streets," said Patrick. "We know that when we put our assets into this, my office along with HSI, DEA, and CCPD, we can make a big difference."
The U.S. Attorney's Office said the nine suspects had their drug-distribution operation inside a room at a local air-conditioning business owned by Charles Warren Callis. Callis was sentenced on Tuesday.
At the briefing, which also happened Tuesday, officials displayed numerous synthetic marijuana packages distributed by the suspects. The drug is also known as Spice, K2, Kush and Klimaxx, among other brand names.
Patrick said the suspects made anywhere from $500,000 to $750,000 selling the drugs.
"Here in Corpus Christi, there was a need to prosecute these cases and we'll continue to do it," he said.
He also mentioned his office was involved because the use of synthetic marijuana became a public health issue for citizens and first responders in the Coastal Bend.
"This stuff is dangerous," Patrick said. "I once heard (synthetic marijuana) described as nothing more than saw dust covered in oven cleaner. And it's not much safer than that."
He also said that since "Operation Done Wrong" began, the number of calls to CCPD for synthetic marijuana crimes has decreased, too. His office hopes sentencing the suspects is a message to other drug dealers out there.
"If anybody is selling this stuff, if anybody is selling it through their business, they're selling it online, they're trafficking this garbage . . . if we don't already know about you, there's a good chance we'll find out about you," Patrick said. "And if we can, we're going to prosecute you."