Peshtigo Couple Faces Federal Charges For Drug TraffickingIssue Date: January 30, 2020
Tracy Lynn Sheldon, 41, (also known as Tracy Zeske) and Chad Allen Zeske, 42, were taken into custody at their home in Peshtigo on Wednesday, Jan. 22 during the execution of federal search and arrest warrants. They are charged with federal drug trafficking as a result of selling illegally imported synthetic marijuana product and/or products manufactured in China and elsewhere that are sometimes known as smokeable synthetic cannabinoids (SSC), "K2" or "Spice."
The couple own "Holy Smoke" legal smoke shops in Menominee and Green Bay, where they allegedly sold the illegal products, sometimes "misleadingly marked" as "potpourri" or "incense," in addition to legal products.
According to Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve, the New York City Police Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Brown County Wisconsin Drug Task Force, Marinette and Peshtigo Police Departments, the Marinette Sheriff's Office participated in execution of the warrants.
Sheriff Sauve says a "significant amount of U.S. currency" was seized during their search of the home.
After the arrests the couple were taken to Green Bay to be held the federal charges. They were released on signature bonds after appearing in Federal Court in Green Bay on Thursday, Jan. 23. Both cases were transferred to the Southern District of New York Federal Court, where Sheldon and Zeske are scheduled to appear on Friday, Jan. 31.
According to federal court documents obtained by WBAY-TV -Green Bay, including Grand Jury indictment documents: "The defendants used stores purporting to be legal "smoke shops" in Michigan and Wisconsin to clandestinely sell (synthetic cannabinoid chemicals). The defendants also distributed synthetic cannabinoids they imported from China to other manufacturers and distributors located elsewhere in the United States."
Each of the defendants has been charged with conspiracy to unlawfully distribute controlled substances and controlled substance analogues, and with conspiracy to unlawfully import controlled substances and controlled substance analogues. Each of the charges could carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, $1 million fine, and at least 3 years to life supervision.
Federal court documents allege Sheldon and Zeske "operated and participated in a scheme to distribute massive wholesale and retail quantities of smokeable synthetic cannabinoids, containing controlled substances and controlled substance analogues, throughout the United States."
A Grand Jury finding alleges the criminal activity started "in or about 2013" and continued into 2019, and that the couple imported the synthetics from China for their supply.
According to Sauve, the NYPD, Homeland Security, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service were tipped off after seeing the synthetic cannabinoids coming through New York from China.
"There's no regulations or inspections done on any of this stuff, and it's very potentially hazardous," Sauve told a TV reporter.
In 2018, a minor purchased some of the of the synthetic drug from one of their smoke shops and "suffered an acute medical episode," according to the grand jury indictment. The minor suffered severe vomiting, loss of consciousness and difficulty breathing.
The documents state that shortly after this, Tracy Sheldon texted a co-conspirator saying she did not need an additional supply for awhile because she "had some younger kids get there [sic] hands on them" and "have [a] bad result." Sheldon described it as a "seizure" and said she was "really limiting her sales for a bit."
"As a grandparent now, you really worry about what these kids or young people, what's going to happen. They get that stuff, and it's just bad for them," Sauve commented.
According to the Federal indictment, Chad Zeske communicated with a co-conspirator about transactions and payments and "orchestrated retail sales" with Tracy.
The investigation is ongoing and involves officials in New York City, Brown County and the federal government.
A statement released by Sauve on behalf of the other participating agencies mentions participation of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in this joint investigation with the Southern District of New York (SONY), United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and declares this "cooperative arsenal of proactive law enforcement assets, including federal, state, and local partners, is a blueprint for success."
It continues, "The direct distribution of deadly smokeable synthetic cannabinoids puts our collective communities in harm's way. This will always be unacceptable to the oath taken by members of law enforcement. Relentless investigative efforts, unwavering dedication to justice, and a daily commitment to protect and serve - these are hallmarks of the men and women of the NYPD. The NYPD also thanks the Brown County Drug Task Force, Northeast Wisconsin Drug Enforcement Group, City of Green Bay Police Department, Marinette County Sheriff's Department, City of Marinette Police Department, City of Peshtigo Police Department and the Department of Revenue for their assistance."
The long-term investigation of this case was partially funded by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federal grant program that invests in law enforcement partnerships to build safe and healthy communities," the statement continues, and concludes, "Today's announcement is another lifesaving step towards achieving deeper community service, one deserving our sincerest gratitude."
The NYPD statement said the long-term investigation of this case was partially funded by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.
In its investigation the NYPD received assistance from Brown County Drug Task Force, Northeast Wisconsin Drug Enforcement Group, Green Bay Police, Marinette County Sheriff's Office, Marinette City Police, Peshtigo City Police, the Southern District of New York, Homeland Security Investigations, Department of Revenue and United States Postal Inspection Service.
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