Two Lafayette attorneys face conspiracy charges in Curious Goods case

Two Lafayette lawyers associated with the Curious Goods stores were integral parts of a highly profitable but illegal operation that sold synthetic marijuana under the brand Mr. Miyagi, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday in the lawyers’ trial on various conspiracy charges.

“This case is about greed, lies, drugs and money,” Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Collin Sims told the jury of eight women and five men, one of whom is an alternate.

Testimony started Tuesday in what could be a two-week trial in federal court.

Lafayette lawyers Daniel Stanford and Barry Domingue are the lone defendants remaining in the case, which had 10 defendants who were indicted in 2012 in a multistate federal investigation.

Stanford and Domingue are representing themselves.

Eight other defendants pleaded guilty before the trial, agreeing to testify against Stanford and Domingue if needed.

Stanford, Domingue and the others were charged in a September 2012 indictment that contained multiple counts of conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to misbrand illegal drugs and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.

Six Curious Goods stores operated as smoke shops that sold packets of Mr. Miyagi, rolling papers and tobacco.

The company was owned by Richard Buswell and his mother, Sims said.

Buswell also was indicted in a separate scheme that bilked investors out of millions of dollars.

In July, Buswell pleaded guilty to crimes in the investor fraud case and in the Curious Goods case.

At his plea hearing, Buswell said that during 11 months in 2011, his Curious Goods stores sold $5 million of synthetic marijuana.

Sims claimed Stanford and Domingue together pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in the operation, and they advised franchise owners and others in the company to market Mr. Miyagi as potpourri.

Sims said Curious Goods management and the lawyers were upset when some franchise owners “went off the reservation” and started to advertise Mr. Miyagi as a legal alternative to illegal but organic marijuana.

Stanford, however, said connections that prosecutors used to link him to illegal activities were faulty.

He told jurors his only connections with Buswell, Curious Goods and its operations was as an attorney representing clients.

Stanford also said he was going through a divorce during July 2011 when he became affiliated with Buswell, who sought him out because he was an attorney who specialized in criminal defense cases.

At the time, Buswell needed legal advice in the federal investor fraud investigation, Stanford said.

Stanford also said much of what Sims told the jury Tuesday was foreign to him.

“When I was listening to that, I wanted to stand up and object,” he said of Sims’ opening statement. “Much of that stuff I’ve heard for the first time today.”

Sims said the operation and profits hinged on whether Mr. Miyagi could masquerade as harmless potpourri. Its label claimed Mr. Miyagi was designed to refresh the air in cars, homes and closets, and it also warned users that it was not to be consumed by humans.

“The labeling was nothing more than a lie. This isn’t some Bed Bath & Beyond potpourri,” Sims said. He said Mr. Miyagi sold for $10 to $75 a gram, much more than real air fresheners.

Sims said Stanford helped keep the pipeline of synthetic marijuana flowing into Lafayette after Curious Goods’ supplier in Georgia got antsy about doing business in Louisiana.

The supplier, Pinnacle Products, and its owner, Boyd Barrow, was worried about a Louisiana law that prohibited one of the key chemicals used in Mr. Miyagi, which gives users an intense marijuana-like high when smoked, Sims said.

To assuage the Georgia connection’s fears, Stanford told Barrow he was a personal friend of Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, and that the two men had a handshake agreement that law enforcement would not prosecute the makers of Mr. Miyagi, Sims said.

Stanford cautioned jurors that many of the witnesses have had years shaved off their prison sentences in exchange for testifying against him and Domingue.

“Most of the witnesses you’re going to hear have cut deals with government,” he said.