Five with KC ties charged in $10.5 million synthetic drug conspiracy

A federal grand jury has indicted five current and former Kansas City residents for their roles in a $10.5 million conspiracy to distribute synthetic marijuana.

Derek A. Williams, 31, and Ashli Adkins, 27, both of Laguna Beach, Calif., but formerly of Kansas City, and Jason M. Sparks, 33, Charidy Blankenship, 27, and Daniel R. Williams, 27, all of Kansas City, conspired to commit mail fraud between March 2011 and November 2012, the indictment alleges.

The five allegedly defrauded the Food and Drug Administration and the public by falsely claiming that their synthetic marijuana products were incense or potpourri and not meant for human consumption. The material, the indictment alleges, actually was synthetic drugs.

In addition to conspiracy, the defendants were charged with distributing a controlled substance and money laundering.

“Synthetic drugs are growing increasingly popular among teenagers and young adults, but they are just as dangerous and deadly as the drugs they mimic,” U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson said in a written statement.

The indictment was part of a nationwide takedown of synthetic drug sellers and manufacturers announced Tuesday by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Law enforcement served more than 500 arrest and search warrants Wednesday in 35 U.S. states and five countries, according to a DEA announcement.

Synthetic drugs often are marketed as herbal incense, bath salts, jewelry cleaner or plant food and can have debilitating health effects, according to federal authorities.