U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of California
(916) 554-2700
May 4, 2015

Federal Inmate Pleads Guilty in Synthetic Drug Smuggling Scheme

FRESNO, CA—Tracy McArthur Harris, aka Trey Harris, 42, a federal inmate who is serving an 11-year prison sentence for a cocaine conspiracy, pleaded guilty today to conspiring with his brother, James Steven Harris, aka Steve Harris, 44, of Loma Linda, to smuggle synthetic cannabinoids into Taft Correctional Institution, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

According to court documents, from December 2012, through April 2013, while incarcerated at Taft Correctional Institution, Trey Harris conspired to obtain smokable synthetic cannabinoids from his brother during visits. Some of the drugs, which were seized by prison authorities during the conspiracy, tested positive for XLR11, then a controlled substance analogue. In May 2013, DEA classified XLR11 as a Schedule I controlled substance following reports by the Centers for Disease Control that XLR11 not only produces hallucinogenic effects but causes kidney damage.

Trey Harris is scheduled for sentencing on July 20, 2015, before Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Steve Harris is scheduled for a status conference on May 11, 2015, in federal court in Fresno. The charges against him are only allegations, and he is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Taft Correctional Institution Investigations Department. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.

Law enforcement agencies have struggled to stem the tide of emerging smokable synthetic cannabinoids, substances that look like marijuana that are sprayed or mixed with a hallucinogenic chemical and often marketed and sold in smoke shops and convenience stores as “potpourri,” “incense,” or “spice.” The chemicals, typically imported from China, come in hundreds of varieties; new formulations appear constantly, with molecules subtly tweaked to try to avoid classification as a controlled substance. However, because they are chemically and pharmacologically similar to controlled substances, these chemicals are considered controlled substance analogues, which are illegal under federal law. Synthetic cannabinoid usage poses extreme health risks that have resulted in serious bodily injury or death. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, exposures to synthetic cannabinoids have spiked this year, with 2,252 exposures reported from January 1, 2015, through April 27, 2015.

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