Clovis woman arrested in nationwide drug investigation

The Fresno BeeMay 7, 2014 

A Clovis woman was arrested Wednesday on drug and money laundering charges as part of a national investigation into a synthetic drug ring with ties to 48 states, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said.

Natalie Middleton, 28, was charged with conspiracy to traffic synthetic cannabinoids, causing the introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce and money laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking.

Wagner said that the conspiracy involved the manufacture and distribution of at least 11 tons of illegal synthetic drugs to smoke shops and retail outlets across the country, including the Stuffed Pipe smoke shops in the Central Valley.

Authorities said that as of Wednesday, more than 150 people have been arrested in connection with the drug ring. Hundreds of thousands of individually wrapped drug packages have been confiscated, and over $20 million in cash and assets was also seized, Wagner said.

If convicted, Middleton faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine for the drug charges. The money laundering charges carry a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441- 6015 or at rappleton@fresnobee.com.

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