Jury convicts Lafayette lawyer in synthetic pot case

Lafayette attorney Daniel Stanford has been convicted on federal drug conspiracy and money laundering charges in a case involving synthetic marijuana.

A jury deliberated six hours Friday before reaching its decision, U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley said. The trial had to be rescheduled in April following the suicide of another defendant, Barry Domingue.

Stanford faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of as much as $2 million for the drug conspiracy conviction, up to 10 years and a $250,000 fine for money laundering; and up to five years and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, Finley said.

Stanford, who represented himself, was found not guilty on five additional money laundering charges, Finley said in a news release about the conviction.

U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote did not set a sentencing date.

Federal prosecutors put on reams of evidence that focused on Stanford’s role in the sale of synthetic marijuana in Curious Goods stores in and around Lafayette.

Prosecutors said the fake pot was branded as potpourri that was sold in different quantities and called “Mr. Miyagi.” They said Stanford was brought into the enterprise after Louisiana outlawed a chemical ingredient in Mr. Miyagi that gets the drug user high.

Stanford told Curious Goods franchise owners and the Georgia supplier of Mr. Miyagi, who were worried about breaking state law, that he had friends in public office in Louisiana who would keep them from running into trouble, prosecutor J. Colin Sims said.

Sims said Stanford told the enterprise he was a personal friend of Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, and that he had a personal guarantee from Caldwell that state prosecutors would not delve into their business.

Caldwell testified last week that he did not know Stanford and that there never would have been an agreement not to prosecute a crime.

Seven other defendants in the trial, whom federal prosecutors Sims, Robert C. Abendroth and John Luke Walker referred to as co-conspirators, pleaded guilty after they were indicted, along with Stanford and Domingue, in September 2012.

The seven all testified against Stanford, Finley said.

In opening statements at both trials, Stanford declared his innocence. He said that seven others charged with him had cut deals with the government.

“The evidence will show I haven’t cut any deals,” Stanford told the jury Aug. 19. “My integrity and honor are not negotiable. I am absolutely not guilty of any of this.”

Prosecutors said the synthetic marijuana manufactured in Georgia and sold in the Curious Good stores was an extremely profitable business and that Stanford stood to make $40,000 to $50,000 a week if operations had continued.

Foote declared a mistrial April 2 after Domingue shot himself in the head in the hours before the trial’s second day of testimony. Domingue died that night. He was 52.

Prosecutors tried the case that was investigated by a host of local, state and federal agencies including the FBI, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and State Police.