A Clovis woman pleaded guilty Monday to laundering money from the sale of synthetic drugs commonly known as “spice,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Before Natalie Middleton, 30, worked as a national sales representative for ZenBio LLC, she worked at The Stuffed Pipe, a chain of smoke shops in Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield, court documents showed.
Spice is a smokable organic plant leaf that is laced with a synthetic cannabinoid, which is often a controlled substance, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Middleton purchased a Lake Tahoe time-share with proceeds she obtained from the sales of smokable synthetic cannabinoids, court documents showed. State and local public health departments said that synthetic cannabinoids cause adverse health effects including agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, elevated blood pressure, tremors, seizures, hallucinations, paranoid behavior and death.
ZenBio was a spice manufacturing and distribution business that started in Pensacola, Florida in November 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. It continued the operations of another spice company known as Zencense IncenseWorks LLC that processed the drug in warehouses in Stockton and Millbrae.
ZenBio generated more than $33 million from the sale of at least 24 tons of synthetic drugs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. During the investigation, law enforcement officers seized more than $6 million in cash and assets.
Middleton is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 11.