N.H. man pleads in synthetic marijuana case

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CONCORD, N.H. >> United States Attorney Emily Gray Rice announced that Panos Eliopoulos, 37, of Richmond, pleaded guilty before United States Magistrate Judge Andrea K. Johnstone to causing misbranded drugs to be introduced into interstate commerce.

Eliopoulos and his wife, Katie Eliopoulos, have operated the retail establishment, "Phat Stuff," located at 84 Main St. in Keene, since 2011. In July 2013, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration received information that drug paraphernalia and smokeable synthetic marijuana products, commonly known as "spice," were being sold from Phat Stuff. In August 2013 a DEA agent visited the store and observed a glass display case which contained numerous foil packages marked with various names which the agent believed, based his training and experience, contained synthetic cannabinoids.

As a result of the agent's observations, on August 9, 2013, a DEA cooperating source, acting at the direction of DEA, entered Phat Stuff and purchased four packets of a substance labeled "Griffon" from an employee of the defendant. Agents examined a packet of "Griffon" and concluded that it was misbranded in that the product was sold as potpourri when in fact the product was intended for use as a drug for human consumption. In addition its label, in package form, failed to include the name and address of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor and its labeling did not bear adequate directions for use.

The package's label also did not bear such adequate warnings against use in those pathological conditions and by children, where its use may be dangerous to health, and against unsafe dosages and methods and duration of administration and application, in such manner or form, as are necessary for the protection of users. The DEA laboratory subsequently identified the substances as PB- 22, which at the time was an analogue of JWH-018, a Schedule I controlled substance.

As part of the plea agreement, Eliopoulos agreed to civilly forfeit to the United States the amount of $10,729.59 as well as a quantity of drug paraphernalia that was seized as part of the search.

Eliopoulos is scheduled to be sentenced on June 14, 2016. The plea agreement contains a binding stipulation that the United States will recommend a sentence of one year probation. Eliopoulos was released pending sentencing.

The investigation was conducted by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and the Keene Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Cole Davis is prosecuting the case.


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