I-Team: Tracing the path of spice

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The illegal drug spice is quickly becoming one of the most commonly abused drugs by teenagers in the United States. It’s sometimes referred to as synthetic marijuana, though the effect of spice is more like PCP than pot. The I-Team’s Glen Meek dug into one of the chemicals found in spice and traced its path from Shanghai, China to the Las Vegas Strip.

On July 28, Thamer Jarjees went to Las Vegas Justice Court and took a plea bargain.

“Mr. Jarjees is going to unconditionally waive his right to a preliminary hearing. At District Court, he’s going to enter a plea to two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. The state is going to have no opposition to probation,” Jarjees’ attorney David Brown told the judge.

Jarjees is set to formally enter his guilty plea in District Court on August 5th, and he could receive probation.

Police arrested Jarjees in February after raiding his 702 Mart convenience store on East Charleston Boulevard and seizing nearly 11,000 gross grams of suspected spice in bottles and packets.

The drug is commonly sold as incense or potpourri. Some people smoke it like marijuana to get high. But, the chemicals found in spice are often dangerous and unpredictable.

Videos posted widely on the Internet show users freaking out after taking the drug. A chemical analysis of some of the spice seized from the East Charleston store turned up two illegal chemical substances:  JWH-018 and XLR-11.  XLR-11 has been illegal in Nevada since 2013. It is one the latest designer drugs being sprayed on spice to give users a high.

“There is absolutely no quality control on the chemicals that are put on this product,” said Metro Police Narcotics Captain Chris Darcy. “What you buy from a store or a person that’s supposed to be spice, you have no idea what you are smoking.  You have no idea what chemical is on it.”

A recent 911 call foreshadowed the death of 23-year-old Karl Ladue, who seemingly went berserk after smoking spice. 

“He took something; we don’t know what, and he’s quite violent, and he needs transport to the hospital,” the Oregon man’s grandmother told the dispatcher.

Ladue died as police wrestled him into custody. The Oregon State Crime Lab tested the spice Ladue smoked before he spiraled out of control; the drug contained XLR-11.

Ladue’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit naming Burton Ritchie and others. The I-Team previously revealed Ritchie’s alleged spice factory in Las Vegas.

Today, he is an independent film producer in Park City, Utah. According to the wrongful death suit and a federal civil complaint, Ritchie controlled a business in 2012 that produced spice. Some of that spice was allegedly manufactured in a rented warehouse complex in Las Vegas.

Some of the product was tested after Drug Enforcement Agency and Internal Revenue Service agents shut down the operation in the summer of 2012.

According to the federal complaint, the products contained XLR-11. The complaint goes on to allege that the XLR-11 came from China, and that Ritchie wired hundreds of thousands of dollars to that country to buy it.

The federal government seized more than $1 million in cash from Ritchie along with vehicles and a condo. He’s fighting in court to get those assets back. So far, he has not been charged with any crimes, but a document from Ritchie’s attorney says he expects to be indicted at any time.

The I-team reached out for comment from Ritchie on several occasions since learning of the federal civil complaint in May. Another call to his lawyer in Florida July 28 did not garner a response.

In court papers, Ritchie admits to using XLR-11 in his products, but he contends the compound was not illegal at the time it was used. He also denies that his products were spice.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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