Although she may not be the mastermind of the operation, twenty-two year old Jaime Nicole Lewis, of Boca Raton has been charged with conspiring to import, possess and distribute several kilos of Alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenon (Alpha-PVP), the main ingredient of an illegal synthetic drug manufactured in China. In street jargon, the drug is commonly known as flakka.
Early last week, Lewis pleaded guilty to conspiring to having the key flakka ingredient imported into the country although she maintains that her role was only acting as a type of accountant responsible for taking care of the “money aspect” for the illegal operation she was charged with being a part of.
She’s been held in federal custody since late April when U.S. Magistrate Judge Dave Brannon said that Lewis posed a danger to the community. She was previously arrested multiple times for possession of marijuana; the last arrest a more serious charge of possession with intent to distribute to a minor in a case which is still ongoing in Broward County.
The judge stated that “the major problem I have with the situation is the repeated encounters Ms. Lewis has had with the court system, which apparently don’t teach her anything.”
The case first came to the attention of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) when agents who were based in London intercepted packages which originated in Hong Kong that were set for final delivery in Palm Beach County.
Based on this intelligence, the DEA was able to setup what’s known as a “controlled delivery” of one of the packages that was delivered to a Boca Raton home, addressed to Ms. Lewis in late March. The drug was replaced with a benign substance that resembled the drug, repackaged and then returned on its route. An undercover agent made the delivery dressed in a DHL delivery uniform. The package was received and signed for by a man who was later identified as Kevin Raphael Bully but signed for the package under a false name.
A short time later, the agents observed Bully move the package to another location. But soon after they lost track of him and he was declared a fugitive from justice and the hunt was on. He was finally apprehended nearly three months later in mid-July.
Searching Bully’s residence, approximately $60,000 in cash was found by investigators along with a handgun and an unspecified amount of marijuana. They also found a white substance believed to be a cutting agent used to mix the crystalized synthetic product received from China. An empty DHL shipping bag that came from the same company listed on the seized packages containing the drug was also uncovered. Bully’s cellphone revealed text messages between Lewis and others detailing deliveries to the Boca Raton residence as well as other addresses.
According to the Indictment which was filed in early May, the two were each charged with two counts of importing flakka and two counts of possessing it with intent to distribute. The maximum penalty for each count carries a penalty of twenty years in prison. “Agents believe Bully utilizes different names and addresses to have the substance shipped in order to remain disconnected from the packages.” It is also believed that Lewis is not the only accomplice he works with based on other texts found in his cell phone.
Bully pleaded not guilty to the four-count indictment.
Flakka is not illegal in China. It is classified as a “research chemical” and manufacturers of the substance offer discreet delivery of their product.
However in the United States flakka falls under the category similar to bath salts; drugs with no accepted medical use. It is a Schedule I Substance, making possession of it a Third-degree felony and a Level 1 offense. A conviction for possession is punishable by up to five years in prison. Importation and distribution of the substance is punishable by up to twenty years in prison.
If a minor is used to deliver or sell Flakka this can be charged as a first or second-degree felony punishable by up to fifteen to thirty years in prison. It was banned in Florida in March 2014.
Flakka can be a very dangerous drug. Small doses produce a feeling of euphoria and mild hallucinogenic effects. However, it is highly addictive and larger doses cause the neurotransmitters to unload dopamine and norepinephrine into the system causing an increase in the heart rate and sensations of extreme euphoria.
And it’s cheap. One nickname is “$5 insanity”. It’s usually sold by dealers in quantities of 1/10 of a gram for $4-$5 per dose. The going rate to the dealer is approximately $1,500 a kilogram which breaks down to huge profits as the seller can make as many as 10,000 individual doses from 1kilo.
In larger amounts it can trigger severe agitation in the user, making them ultra-aggressive. It also can raise a user’s body temperature to close to 105 degrees resulting in cases of people ripping off their clothes while under its influence. They become violent, and their adrenaline kicks into overdrive to the point where they gain what some police have labelled almost superhuman strength. The effects can lead to psychosis, with delusions and hallucinations, extreme paranoia, as well as excited delirium syndrome. This is why some users run around convinced they’re being hunted, chased or pursued.
Although cases of flakka abuse have been reported in other states, South Florida has been the center of the recent rise in cases related to the drug in the United States. According to BSO spokesperson Keyla Concepcion “In 2014, we had one case of flakka in January, none in February, then we had 19 in March. There was a steady increase which peaked at 84 in September and then again began to decline toward the end of the year.” However there has been a reported 275 cases in the first three months of this year. “That represents a 45 percent increase when you compare all of 2014 to just the first three months of 2015.” Broward County has led the state in flakka related incidents.
If you, a friend or family member is facing charges that may relate to any types of charges relating to possession or distribution of illegal drugs call now for a free consultation and case evaluation. My complete attorney profile can be viewed by clicking here.
Fort Lauderdale based Criminal Defense Attorney committed to the vigorous defense of all federal and state criminal allegations specializing in cases of narcotics charges, formerly working as an Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting cases for the government and an Assistant State Attorney for Broward County, now practicing as a criminal defense attorney for the past fifteen years. In cases such as these, there’s no substitute for experience.