Crime - Sacto 911

Roseville man pleads guilty to $6.6 million synthetic marijuana conspiracy

A 43-year-old Roseville man has pleaded guilty in federal court in Missouri to participating in a conspiracy to distribute more than $6.6 million worth of synthetic cannabinoids, also known as K2, at businesses in that state.

Raja Amer Nawaz, also known as “Rex,” was the last of 13 co-defendants to plead guilty in the case, according to a news release issued Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Jefferson City, Mo. Nawaz pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud related to the distribution of the synthetic cannabinoids.

Nawaz and other conspirators in California sold synthetic cannabinoids to several businesses in Callaway County, Mo., an operation that generated $6,656,843 in gross proceeds, according to the news release. In pleading guilty, Nawaz agreed to forfeit to the government $2,919,407, which represents the proceeds directly attributable to his part in the conspiracy, authorities said.

Nawaz’s co-defendants from California included Michael James Butler, 40, of Sacramento, who also pleaded guilty to participating in the mail fraud conspiracy as well and a money-laundering conspiracy, the news release said. Curtis Whayne Gonzales, 57, and Aleksandr Polyanskiy, 35, both of the Sacramento area, pleaded guilty to participating in the mail fraud conspiracy. Nawaz’s wife, Sheila Marie Nawaz, 40, of Roseville, pleaded guilty to participating in the money-laundering conspiracy.

The Missouri businesses – posing as pawn shops, aroma therapy shops, a tobacco store, and a “buy, sell and trade” business – purchased synthetic cannabioids from Dec. 18, 2012, to July 16, 2015. At least 251 shipments of the K2 were made via FedEx and UPS, the news release said. The packages of drugs bore labels that misidentified the contents as “incense,” “aroma therapy” or “potpourri” that were “not for human consumption.”

Under the terms of Nawaz’s plea agreement, the government will recommend that he receive a sentence of eight years in federal prison without parole, according to the news release. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the U.S. Probation Office completes a pre-sentence investigation.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy