LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Burton Ritchie was known as a film producer in Hollywood, but federal agents said he was producing something else: synthetic drugs. On Friday, he and his associate, Benjamin Galecki, are scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in downtown Las Vegas.
The I-Team sat down for an exclusive interview with the family of Victor Orlando Woolson who died in 2012 at 19 years old. According to his mother, he used Ritchie’s product the day that he died.
“He was my first best friend, and I miss him dearly,” said Sarah Gauger, Victor Orlando Woolson’s sister.
The family has waited seven years to face Ritchie and Galecki who were convicted after they manufactured and sold the synthetic cannabinoid, “spice.” Teresa Woolson, who is Victor’s mother, said the spice Victor used was purchased in a store in Oswego, New York, where the family resides. The brand, Zencense, is the company Ritchie ran with Galecki’s help.
“He was in the ICU, but there really wasn’t much hope,” revealed his mother, Teresa Woolson. “They couldn’t regulate him. They couldn’t … his body organs started shutting down, couldn’t. They couldn’t save him.”
A Las Vegas warehouse where authorities said Ritchie and Galecki made and packaged the drug was raided by federal authorities in 2012.
“That what they did was so, so, so wrong. I mean they harmed people all over the United States,” said Woolson.
A civil lawsuit was filed against Ritchie in connection with the death of a 23-year-old Oregon man, whose parents said he also used Ritchie’s product. During a 2015 deposition in that lawsuit, Ritchie noted, “We shipped sometimes hundreds of packages a day.”
Ritchie later sold that profitable business and opened a film production company.
“… With the millions of dollars they made on the synthetic drugs, and that was like no … no. They’re not gonna continue that. No way. I will do whatever it takes. That is ridiculous,” said Woolson.
Woolson became a voice in the fight against synthetic drugs, starting a not-for-profit in her son’s name, The Victor Orlando Woolson Foundation, Inc..
Ritchie, Galecki and their associates were charged in several states and federally on drug charges. Ritchie and Galecki also face separate trials in Virginia and Alabama.
To the family, the sentencing is a huge step. “It’s super important that for me, that I feel like justice is served, and it’s the end of a chapter,” Gauger said.
Teresa Woolson is pushing for a life sentence. The sentencing for 24 counts, each related to selling “spice,” is scheduled for 9:30 Friday morning.
Woolson also hopes to save other lives through her foundation. One of her goals is education about how dangerous the drug is.
For more information on The Victor Orlando Woolson Foundation, Inc., visit the nonprofit’s website.