Federal charges for Adams man in 'massive' synthetic cannabinoid operation

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BOSTON — An Adams man was arrested Thursday morning on federal charges that he and a postal worker had been importing, manufacturing and distributing "massive" amounts of synthetic drugs across the country.

Daniel Borer, 42, of Adams, and Josephine McLaughlin, 65, of Stoneham, allegedly operated a scheme to import synthetic cannabinoids, also called "spice" or "K2," from China over a five-year period beginning in February 2014, according to an indictment from the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York. The pair then manufactured and shipped wholesale quantities of a smokable form of the drug throughout the country.

"These two defendants are alleged to distribute large quantities of synthetic cannabinoids, a dangerous product that could affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana," said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of Homeland Security inspections. "When it comes to a synthetic drug, it is rarely a harmless alternative. Borer and McLaughlin are now out of business, making the communities we serve that much safer."

While the court documents do not indicate what, if any criminal activity took place in Berkshire County, there was a large law enforcement presence — unmarked cars, troopers, and the Berkshire County Law Enforcement Task Force — at the Cheshire state police barracks just after 6 a.m. Thursday. Law enforcement officials confirmed this was related to Borer's arrest.

"Trafficking of synthetic cannabinoids — sometimes called K2 or Spice — poses a serious threat to public health and safety," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement. "Packaged attractively to appeal to teenagers and young adults, synthetic cannabinoids are in reality a toxic cocktail that can be very dangerous to consume."

In 2014, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a ban on the synthetic drug, which had previously been sold, in some forms, at gas stations and convenience stores as an alternative to marijuana. Recent regulations enacted by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency have made the manufacture and sale of these drugs illegal.

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The products sold by the pair were branded with colorful graphics and distinctive names, including "Dead Man Walking," "Klimax," "Zero Gravity," "Twilite," "Psycho," and "Get Real," according to the U.S. District Court indictment, which was filed in the Southern District of New York.

McLaughlin is an employee of the U.S. Postal Service.

"Josephine McLaughlin's alleged violation of the employee code of conduct and ethics rules is appalling. As an employee, she is entrusted to uphold the sanctity of the U.S. Mail and her alleged breach of trust has led to today's arrest," said Ruth M. Mendonca, acting inspector of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, in the statement. "United States Postal Inspectors are committed to protecting the U.S. Mail and will ensure that those who violate this sanctity are brought to justice."

The pair were scheduled to be arraigned at U.S. District Court in Boston on Thursday on three counts of conspiring unlawfully to import and distribute controlled substances and controlled substance analogues. They could face a maximum of 20 years in prison on each charge.

The long-term investigation involved the New York Police Department, United States Postal Inspection Service, the Berkshire Law Enforcement Task Force and the Berkshire District Attorney's Office.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.


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