A Florida man pleaded guilty Friday in Denver’s federal court to drug conspiracy and money laundering charges related to the selling of synthetic pot across the Denver metro area under product names like “Sexy Monkey” and “Crazy Clown.”
Daniel Bernier, 28, faces up to 10 years of prison, five years of supervised release and has agreed to forfeit $1.8 million as well as three properties in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Bernier, who wore a purple dress shirt and had shoulder-length brown hair, entered guilty pleas to charges of conspiracy to violate controlled drug laws and money laundering involving more than $10,000.
In exchange for his guilty pleas, the government dropped several other charges against Bernier, one of the main figures in an international drug ring. The plea calls for Bernier to serve the two convictions concurrently.
Bernier agreed to cooperate with the U.S. government in its ongoing investigation of the syndicate. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 6.
Bernier distributed synthetic pot and helped set up a network in Colorado under a company named “The Really Cool Stuff Company,” court records indicate. The name of the company was changed to “Heart of Asia.”
The synthetic pot was allegedly sprayed onto a “green vegetable substance” and shipped to Colorado, U.S. Attorney John Walsh has said.
Law enforcement officers arrested nine suspected members of an international drug ring that marketed a synthetic form of marijuana called Spice, a drug that has been linked to serious illnesses, hallucinations and even death.
It is sold in gas stations and corner shops. Some packages are labeled “Not for Human Consumption.”
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A sting involving local, state and federal officials led to an investigation in which nine people across the metro area were arrested in May. Additionally, DEA agents arrested hundreds of defendants in 25 states as part of the same operation.
In August and September of 2013, 221 people were admitted in Denver-area and Colorado Springs emergency rooms after using Spice. Some victims tried to light themselves on fire, and one person tried to cut his head off, officials said. A 15-year-old Aurora boy died.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared it a health epidemic at the time. Although most of the victims were between the ages of 12 and 29, one person was 70.
Kirk Mitchell: 303-954-1206, email@example.com or twitter.com/kirkmitchell, denverpost.com/coldcases