Lafayette attorney says synthetic marijuana charges bogus

The Curious Goods synthetic marijuana trial got its second start this week, months after one of the defendants killed himself in April in the first trial’s opening days.

Daniel Stanford, a Lafayette attorney, is now the lone defendant in a case in which federal prosecutors allege he profited handsomely — and wanted more — from illegal synthetic marijuana sales at Curious Goods stores in and around Lafayette. Stanford is representing himself.

Barry Domingue, another Lafayette attorney indicted in the Curious Goods case, shot himself April 2, hours before the second day of testimony began. Later that day, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote declared a mistrial. Domingue died that night.

Seven others charged in the case have pleaded guilty, including Richard Buswell, the reputed ring leader who owned the Curious Goods stores franchise that sold a highly profitable brand of fake pot called Mr. Miyagi.

In opening statements, Stanford told the jury of eight women and five men that he didn’t plead guilty and make a deal with prosecutors because he didn’t do anything illegal.

“The evidence will show I haven’t cut any deals,” Stanford said. “My integrity and honor are not negotiable. I am absolutely not guilty of any of this.”

Stanford is charged with one count each of conspiracy to distribute synthetic marijuana and conspiracy to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, and 11 counts of money laundering.

Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Colin Sims told jurors that Mr. Miyagi was manufactured by chemists in Georgia and packaged as potpourri, but its real purpose was packing it in pipes or rolling it in cigarette papers and inhaling its smoke for a euphoric feeling.

“The high from smoking and ingesting it was very good,” Sims said, and likened the wave of people who smoked it to an epidemic.

Sims said Mr. Miyagi was sold in 1-gram to 10-gram packages that cost $10 to $65. He said Buswell’s income from the Mr. Miyagi enterprise during nine months in 2011 was $5 million.

The enterprise ran into trouble in 2011 after the Louisiana Legislature outlawed the chemical used to create the Mr. Miyagi euphoria. The people who bought Curious Goods franchises and the Georgia firm that manufactured Mr. Miyagi wanted guarantees that shipping the product to Louisiana and selling it here were not illegal activities.

Sims said Stanford advised all concerned that there was a verbal commitment from the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office promising there would be no prosecution for selling Mr. Miyagi.

During 2011, the Curious Goods stores were doing well, and at least one franchise owner “went off the reservation” and promoted Mr. Miyagi in an ad that said, “Get off the grass. Get on the Miyagi,” Sims said.

Sims said that during the time Stanford was working for the enterprise in 2011, the longtime criminal defense attorney made $40,000 a week and planned to make more with the creation of the Louisiana Retail Compliance Association.

Stanford said the money he made was for representing Buswell in a federal investor fraud trial unrelated to Curious Goods.

Buswell and his mother, who on paper owned most of the Curious Goods business, paid Stanford $100,000 via company checks for defending Buswell, Stanford said.

Stanford said the bank deposits and withdrawals in a client trust account for Buswell form the basis for the government’s multiple charges of money laundering. He said the money deposited on Curious Goods checks were for legitimate legal work on behalf of Buswell.

“These charges are fictitious. They’re bogus,” Stanford said.

Stanford is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs, one count of conspiracy to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, and 11 counts of money laundering.