Vancouver man arrested in international drug investigation

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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A 31-year-old Vancouver man has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in an international synthetic marijuana trafficking conspiracy, according to the Oregon district of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Ryan A. Scott, 31, of Vancouver pleaded not guilty May 16 in federal court in Oregon to multiple charges revolving around a conspiracy to manufacture and distribute synthetic marijuana. He was released on conditions pending trial, according to a justice department news release.

Scott was one of four people arrested in connection with a trafficking investigation first launched in early 2011 by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Lead defendant Alexander Dimov, 33, of Bulgaria was arrested May 15 on the island of Molokai in Hawaii and was detained for transport to Oregon.

“With these arrests, HSI has halted a multi-million dollar business that we believe was a threat to public health and safety,” said Brad Bench, acting special agent at HSI Seattle, in a statement.

The suspects allegedly conspired to manufacture and distribute synthetic marijuana with unsafe chemicals banned by DEA, mixing them with herb extracts and marketing them as “incense” online with dozens of domain names, including k2incense.org. A well-known synthetic marijuana product was called Spice.

Federal agents used search warrants May 15 to seize hundreds of pounds of dried plant materials, packaging equipment and chemicals found in the defendants’ residences and a warehouse in Vancouver.

“Buying incense to put in marijuana pipes is like playing Russian roulette because the consumer has no idea what chemicals in are in the base plant material,” said Commander Mike Cooke of the Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force. “You have no way to tell if there is a banned illegal substance in it. Incense isn’t supposed to have banned ingredients, but the consumer doesn’t have a way to know that.”

Side effects of the banned chemicals can include rapid heartbeat, hallucinations and psychotic state, Cooke said.

“It’s not uncommon for people to be transported to the ER with Spice,” he said.

The defendants’ trial is set for July 10 in U.S. District Court.