On February 25, a joint task force consisting of the Tappahannock Police Department, Essex County Sheriff’s Office, the Virginia State Police, the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Internal Revenue Service executed seven search warrants and arrested seven individuals in connection with federal indictments surrounding Slipknots Trading & Tobacco, LLC. The owners and employees of Slipknots; Connie Bowler, Brandon Bowler, John Rhoades, Robert Rhoades, Melody Green, Christopher Lowery, and Harrell Stockwell, Jr. were all arrested on federal indictments related to the distribution of smokeable synthetic cannabinoids (commonly referred to as “spice”).
Each of the defendants faces a maximum 20 years in prison if convicted of the conspiracy charge. Additionally, Connie Bowler, Melody Green, and John Rhoades face an additional 20 years imprisonment for maintaining a drug involved premises for the Slipknots Trading & Tobacco stores in Tappahannock and Topping, VA. The indictments allege Slipknots Trading and Tobacco sold over $3 million dollars in spice over an 18 month period.
The Tappahannock location of Slipknots closed at the end of January 2014 after Slipknots’ lease was not renewed. On Slipknots’ Facebook page, the store indicated it would possibly be moving to King William County, but subsequently obtained a business license in Tappahannock to reopen Slipknots. According to Town officials, Slipknots obtained a business license to reopen on March 1, 2014 in a shopping center adjacent to Walmart in Tappahannock.
The Tappahannock Police Department, Essex County Sheriff’s Office, and the Office of the Essex County Commonwealth’s Attorney worked closely with other state and federal law enforcement agencies as well as the United States Attorney’s Office. Various forms of spice have been made illegal under Virginia law, but chemists change the chemical compounds used in spice to differ from those covered by state law, making prosecution of many forms of spice difficult under current Virginia law. Federal law has a designer drug statute that allows for prosecution of synthetic drugs that are “substantially similar” to existing controlled substances, but have different chemical compositions. The General Assembly is currently considering HB1112, which would provide Virginia a designer drug statute similar to federal law.
In August 2013, The Tappahannock Police Department, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, the Virginia State Police in conjunction with the Essex County Commonwealth’s Attorney arrested and charged employees of ….
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