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Spice manufacturers convicted for distributing to Hampton Roads businesses

HAMPTON, Va. – Two men have been convicted after distributing spice to Hampton Roads, according to the Department of Justice.

46-year-old Charles Burton Ritchie, and 42-year-old Benjamin Galecki both of Pensacola, Florida, were convicted today by a federal jury on charges related to their roles in a $21 million spice manufacturing and distribution conspiracy.

“Spice is a dangerous mixture of ingredients that can be deadly,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Often it is our young people who fall victim to these illegal drugs, obtaining them at gas stations and convenience stores without any idea how dangerous they can be. I want to commend our trial team and investigative partners for their terrific work on this case.”

Authorities say Ritchie and Galecki were indicted on September 8, 2015. According to court records, Ritchie and Galecki operated Zencens which was a Pensacola-based company that manufactured smokable synthetic cannabinoids, commonly known as “spice,” throughout 2012.

Ritchie and Galecki’s company named their spice blends Bizarro, Neutronium, Orgazmo, and Sonic Zero.

Their products contained XLR-11 and UR-144, which at that time were analogues of JWH-018, a Schedule I controlled substance.

In Dec. 2012, Ritchie and Galecki said they sold their company to a third party in California, though they continued to exercise control over the company into 2013.

The new company’s name was ZenBio.

Between August 2012 and April 2013, Zencense and ZenBio shipped a total of approximately 1,000 kilograms of spice to the Hampton Roads area.

Zencense and ZenBio spice was sold at Hampton Pipe and Tobacco, a headshop in Hampton, as well as at the Red Barn, a convenience store in Newport News, among other locations.

Ritchie and Galecki each face a maximum penalty of 79 years in prison when sentenced on May 22.