(Times-News (Twin Falls, ID) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 26--POCATELLO -- A Twin Falls businessman was sentenced Friday in federal district court in Pocatello for his part in the sale of synthetic marijuana.
According to federal sentencing guidelines, Allen Nagel could have spent years in prison. But his cooperation with the U.S. government means he won't see the inside of a prison cell.
Allen Nagel will serve five years of supervised probation.
Mike Fica, attorney for the U.S. government, said Nagel was instrumental in helping solve other synthetic drug cases around the country.
Nagel addressed the courtroom saying he believed what he was selling was legal and stopped selling so-called "spice" as soon as he realized it was not.
Nagel sold spice under the brand-name Hayze at multiple shops in Twin Falls from 2011 to 2012. All forms of synthetic marijuana became illegal in Idaho in July 2012.
Even with time reduced for his assistance, Nagel still could have spent 10 to 16 months in federal prison. Fica and Nagel's attorney, Stevan Thompson, both recommended Nagel go straight to probation.
Nagel is a businessman who got caught up in selling spice and later forfeited a substantial amount of assets bought with the proceeds to the government. Nagel doesn't use drugs and regrets that his wife and children were affected by his own legal troubles, Thompson said.
"He learned a pretty hard lesson," he said.
Nagel told U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill he feels bad that he got into the spice industry in the first place.
"I didn't realize the impact it was having on the community until it was too late," he said.
Nagel said he was indicted nine months after he had stopped selling spice.
"I'm taking kind of a leap of faith here," Winmill said.
Winmll noted that at 44, Nagel has no history of drug or alcohol abuse and appeared to be a legitimate businessman who was tempted into selling spice by profits.
"If you prove me wrong by violating your probation, you will be hammered. You understand that?" Winmill asked. "If you have a probation violation, you can count on going to prison. Do you understand that?"
"Yes, Your Honor," Nagel answered to both questions.
Joshua Becker and Allen Nagel formed A & J Distribution before March 2011 and manufactured, marketed and sold synthetic marijuana, also known as spice, branded "Hayze" until July 2012, court documents say.
Although A & J Distribution was moved to Oregon at some point, it still conducted significant business in Idaho.
The men deliberately concealed the illegal nature and source of their proceeds by billing their product as "potpourri" or "aromatics," the indictment says.
When it was sold legally in Twin Falls, users in their teens and 20s were coming to the emergency room shaking, paranoid, anxious and out of control, so experts had to determine whether they had mental health issues or a reaction to the drug, a leading doctor said in 2012.
Many youth thought spice was a safer, cheaper alternative to marijuana, said Marsha Stallones, director of Juvenile Drug Court in Twin Falls County.
In the fall of 2011, Filer High School students saw two of their peers lose balance, shake uncontrollably and be hospitalized after using spice.
In January 2012, a 55-year-old man was charged with injury to a child for providing spice to a 17-year-old girl. Police found her laying on a street screaming, straining, writhing and having tremors, court records say. After resisting treatment for more than three hours, she was moved to the intensive care unit.
Last year, Allen Nagel's brother Gary E. Nagel, and Joshua Cserepes, both of Twin Falls, and Shyloh Becker, of Portland, Ore., each was sentenced to 36 months of probation and fined $500 for analogue drug-related charges. In June, Allen Nagel's wife Stephanie Nagel was sentenced to three years of supervised probation on a charge of conspiracy to sell and transport drug paraphernalia.
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