Former Escambia Businessmen Sentenced To 20 Years On Federal Spice, Money Laundering Charges

September 12, 2020

Benjamin Galecki, former Pensacon CEO, and Burton Ritchie, former owner of The Psychedelic Shack in Pensacola, have been sentenced to 20 years each in federal prison on “spice” related charges.

After a 10 day federal jury trial in Las Vegas, Nevada, Ritchie, 49, Galecki, 46, were found guilty of 24 counts, including operating a continuing criminal enterprise, manufacturing and possessing with the intent to distribute controlled substance analogues, and money laundering, among other related charges.

According to court documents and evidence presented during trial, from March 21 to July 25, 2012, Ritchie and Galecki owned and managed Zencense Incenseworks, a company that manufactured smokable synthetic cannabinoid products commonly known as spice. They also marketed and sold them as “potpourri,” “incense,” or “aromatherapy”.

Ritchie and Galecki rented a warehouse in Las Vegas for the sole purpose of manufacturing these synthetic products, which contained the dangerous chemical XLR-11 — a controlled substance analogue. At the Las Vegas warehouse, a Zencense employee would mix XLR-11 with acetone and liquid flavoring, and then apply the chemical mixture to dried plant material. Next, the employee would mail the compounded mixture to Ritchie and Galecki in Pensacola where other workers would place the spice into small retail bags.

The defendants sold their products — with suggestive brand names such as “Bizarro,” “Orgazmo,” “Headhunter,” and “Defcon 5 Total Annihilation” — to smoke shops across the United States. From June 1 to July 25, 2012, Ritchie and Galecki were responsible for manufacturing and distributing approximately 4,000 pounds of spice, and they made approximately $1.61 million selling XLR-11 spice manufactured in Nevada, according to federal court testimony.

The defendants were also ordered to forfeit approximately $2.5 million as a result of their illegal enterprise in the District of Nevada.

“Charles Burton Ritchie and Benjamin Galecki operated a nationwide criminal enterprise, selling dangerous drugs worth millions of dollars that contained illegal ingredients imported from China,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “These sentences demonstrate the department’s commitment to aggressively pursuing criminals who seek to circumvent U.S. drug laws by selling dangerous drugs that threaten the health of our communities across the nation.”

“Working collaboratively with our justice partners to rid our communities of spice and other toxic cannabinoid products helps save lives,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dan Neill of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Las Vegas Field Office. “Disrupting this organization sends a clear message that we will not tolerate those who prey on our communities to further their criminal activity.”

“Ritchie and Galecki benefited greatly at the detriment of our community and others by putting illegal drugs on the streets and profiting from it,” said Special Agent in Charge Tara Sullivan, IRS Criminal Investigation. “IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to serve on the side of justice to clean up the streets.”


16 Responses to “Former Escambia Businessmen Sentenced To 20 Years On Federal Spice, Money Laundering Charges”

  1. M on September 14th, 2020 11:59 pm

    if you’re asking if it’s ok you know it’s not!!!

  2. Blame and judge on September 14th, 2020 12:06 pm

    I did not know these men personally. But it seems as tho they being hated on bc they were successful and made plenty of money. Money the government will take now for their own. Alcohol kills people everyday, one way or another. How many innocent people and children die in car wrecks everyday bc they were hit by drunk driver? Who blames the alcohol distributer for that? Nobody! If hypocrits would look at the entire blame game, I’m sure the obvious is clear. One is no worse than the other. If u gonna judge one, why not judge them ALL?

  3. Tabby on September 14th, 2020 6:05 am

    @Rasheed Jackson, I hear what you say. I understand it. However, let me give you some perspective. A neighbor of mine had purchased a fine home on 5 acres with a pool. He was a good man. Retired DOD official. Bad gambler. Had it so bad, he would go to Atmore (ATMORE !!) for days on end. No food or sleep. Sickening. He was in trouble with credit card companies and about to lose his home. I saw random folks at his home leaving with a riding mower, a generator, etc. So my husband spoke with him and purchased an 40×80 metal building that had not yet been put together for $1,200. Very cheap. We thought, “why not, if not us, it’ll be someone”. Can you see the correlation ? No. I suppose most of the contracted workers at Plant Crist are the dregs of society because during the time these guys were making this stuff, a majority of contracted workers were smoking this stuff otj. Seen it myself. I do agree it’s a horrible nasty drug though.

  4. Robert Bruner on September 13th, 2020 5:24 am

    They did ask the gov’t if what they were doing is legal. They said yes. If you ask law enforcement if you can do something and they say yes you should not be able to be arrested and sent to prison for doing it. Is spice bad? Sure. SO is alcohol and cigarettes. “officer, can I fish here and keep the fish I catch? Sure. Thank you. Now here’s your ticket”. Ridiculous.

  5. Henry Coe on September 12th, 2020 9:25 pm

    Re:steve, I hear what you are saying and yes they invented and different version of what was illegal so they could sell a product that was not illegal and they kept in touch with DEA to talk about what they were doing to make sure they were working within the Laws. They were not nefariously hiding anything about what they were doing and they have cooperated with LE at every step along the way as far as I know.

  6. JGTG on September 12th, 2020 8:35 pm

    The law banning spice was approved by Congress 2011 a year before these clowns started selling the spice they were making. Barack Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act in 2012. So it wasn’t overnight and they knew what they were doing. Any addiction comes at a cost to individuals who are addicts and the families who love them. Most of the time the addicts do not realize what they are doing to themselves and their families. So these so called business men just put a very addictive bomb into the laps of unknowing individuals who happen to possibly have generations of family histories of various types of addictions. That is not okay. And it is not okay to keep changing up the recipe to avoid detection and prosecution. Bottom line is they knew what they were doing was not legal. They did it anyway. Now they are paying the price.

  7. paul on September 12th, 2020 7:13 pm

    money+free will+human suffering = you do the math

  8. Rasheed Jackson on September 12th, 2020 6:34 pm

    Are you kidding me? People are actually trying to defend these purulent pockets of society. “He was a good man who created job, a family man”. Yes and he didn’t care who he hurt in the process of being a “successful businessman”. People who use these drugs are the dregs of society, and many times they pull their children into the filth and darkness they live in. Many are mentally deficient due to over use of drugs and alcohol and their children suffer. I don’t see how a descent, compassionate, caring, and upstanding “family man” could be a part of an industry that does nothing but destroys people’s lives. And to call a person who deals in this type of crime a “capitalist” is a stretch of the term and a slam on capitalism. Capitalizing on one’s misfortune, weakness, or vulnerability is not capitalism. These individuals are not good people they are the purulence of society and need to be treated as such.

  9. No Excuses on September 12th, 2020 6:10 pm

    @ William Livingston,

    They won’t get a cushy federal prison. None of them are cushy, but with a 20 year sentence, they will go behind the fence for a good part of that at an FCI. No camps for these dudes.

  10. steve on September 12th, 2020 3:46 pm

    To William and Henry, The drugs they were selling were part of a drug that they kept changing the formula to keep the DA And state offices from outlawing that particular drug. They would twik some chemical here and there to make a new one that did the same thing.
    I watched a documentary on it. They KNEW what was going on was just a matter of time [before the laws change to outlaw them. But they kept on doing it.
    Then the law makers got smart and outlawed any and all types that fit in that category.
    Also the drug they selling is far worse and addictive than most drugs out there.
    It causes all kind of brain issues way after people h ave stopped using it.
    And during use it causes rage and delusions and unlike MJ the high does not last very long and they need to smoke it all day to stay high.

    I am for MJ being legal.. And if you could contain it to just the person using I would not care if they main lined heroin. But often times there is family and children involved and it destroys the family and causes greater problems as the kids grow up and have trouble with the same…
    BUT 20 years when rapist and far worse crimes getting lesssssssss….. NAH… 5 year sentence with 4 years on house arrest, loss of all money involved, pay into a drug rehabilitation fund and community service… Also to never be allowed to sell any type of drug or supplies…

  11. 429SCJ on September 12th, 2020 1:37 pm

    “The politics of contraband”.

    Spice is a bad drug.

  12. Tabby on September 12th, 2020 11:57 am

    I personally couldn’t care less. I don’t think anything should be illegal. If someone wants to put filth into their body, that’s their choice, their right. When Hearst, who owned significant media and pine plantations, used his influence to ban marijuana because hemp is far better than pine. So the government uses propaganda to tell you how bad it is and uses billions of your own money to do it. Yet now what, now it’s just all good ? Please. Sheep will never see and fools will always be fools. I love liberty.

  13. Kayla Miller on September 12th, 2020 11:43 am

    Thank you for getting these menaces to society off of our streets! People know the consequences of selling spice and care nothing about the damage they are causing. Lock em up good throw away the key!!!

  14. William Livingston on September 12th, 2020 11:33 am

    Henry Coe is correct these men are example of government gone wrong g spice was legal then over night illegal. no notice no ability to legally dispose of this. rgey where railroaded. I hope tgey get a cushy fed prison maybe Trump can pardon them…

  15. Henry Coe on September 12th, 2020 8:38 am

    Society is not safer or better off because these guys are locked up. I knew Burton. He really did contact Federal Agencies and ask if he could do what he did and be legal and they told him there was nothing illegal about the product he sold.
    The hypocrisies in society and our laws in comparison to Burton’s situation blows my mind. When people abuse alcohol, why aren’t alcohol distributors and manufacturers liable when drunks kill others or themselves? With people abusing alcohol or huffing paint or eating Tide pods or whatever, society thinks people need to take responsibility for their own choices and their own behaviours. In this situation it is blame the manufacturer and the distributor for selling a product that was legal.
    The entire premise of these cases against Burton and Benjamin Galecki is based in the courts not allowing chemistry experts to testify about the spice they sold and that, as far as I know, is the only reason other charges are described as criminal.
    Burton wasn’t hiding nefariously and he worked with government to abide by our laws. He was a successful businessman, a family man who helped lots of people and created jobs. Yes he ran a head shop that also sold clothing and offered tattooing and all kinds of nicknacks and he did it legally working within our Laws because he was a capitalist and there was a market for what he had for sale.
    I’m all for having regulated capitalism in our society but ignoring and not allowing the testimony of experts to sway the outcome of a trial or trials is not regulating capitalism, it’s a witch hunt.

  16. ELW on September 12th, 2020 6:24 am

    Couple of more dope peddlers off the street. Federal and Local government need to speed up thier work and get more of these parasites gone.

Have a comment on this story?

We welcome your comments on this story, but there are some rules to follow::

(1) Be Nice. No comments that slander another, no racism, no sexism, no personal attacks.

(2) No Harrassing Comments. If someone says something bad about you, don't respond. That's childish.

(3) No Libel. That's saying something is not true about someone. Don't do it.

(4) Keep it clean. Nothing vulgar, obscene or sexually related. No profanity or obvious substitutions. Period.

(5) reserves the right to remove any comments that violate our rules or we think to be inappropriate. We are not responsible for what is posted. Comments may not appear right away until they are approved by a moderator.

(6) Limit your comments to the subject in this story only, and limit comments to 300 words or less. Do not post copyrighted material. Comments will not be added to stories that are over 30 days old.

(7) No posts may advertise a commercial business or political group, or link to another commercial web site or political site of any kind.