George Brauchler shows a seized drug marketed under the name Sunburst at a news conference in Denver on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (Karl Gehring, The Denver Post)

Defendants in Colo. synthetic marijuana case appear in federal court

A judge has postponed arraignments for three men arrested in connection with their alleged involvement in an international distribution ring selling a synthetic form of marijuana called spice.

Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer also postponed bond hearings for James Johnson of Castle Rock; and Donald Creager III and Orlando Martinez, both of Denver until next week.

Shaffer notified each of the defendants of the charges they face and determined whether each of them needed or qualified for a public defender.

“I’m struggling to see how Mr. Martinez qualifies for state-appointed counsel,” said Shaffer, before denying the defendant’s request for a public defender. Shaffer faces up to 5 years in prison on a drug conspiracy charge.

The judge granted Johnson, who faces up to 20 years in a federal prison on numerous conspiracy and drug distribution counts, a public defender after the defendant claimed he was unemployed.

“Well, I’m not currently (employed). I’m an independent contractor,” Johnson said.

Creager, who faces two charges with a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison, has a private attorney.

Related: Nationwide synthetic pot bust includes 9 arrests in Colorado

The three defendants were arrested Wednesday and held without bond overnight, said Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for U.S. Attorney John Walsh.

Creager, an alleged spice wholesaler, runs Creager Mercantile in Denver; Johnson was an alleged salesman for “The Really Cool Stuff Company,” which later changed its name to Heart of Asia.

Martinez also faces a civil lawsuit filed by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers’ office. Law enforcement officers say they found 1,320 packages of Spice with a value of $120,000.

The drug was manufactured primarily in China; shipped to Florida, where it was sprayed on green leafs and packaged; and then transported across the country and sold in gas stations and corner stores under labels including “Sexy Monkey” and “Crazy Clown.”

Six other codefendants arrested Wednesday face arraignments in other states including Nebraska, Illinois and Florida, Dorschner said.

The illegal sales of spice received attention in Colorado in August and September when 221 people were admitted to Front Range emergency rooms with symptoms of hallucinations. Some victims tried to light themselves on fire or cut their heads off. A 15-year-old Aurora boy overdosed and died.

The nine arrests linked to Colorado spice sales were coordinated nationally with arrest raids of hundreds of people in 25 states across the country on Wednesday.

Kirk Mitchell:; 303-954-1206 or

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