The Sentencing of the Manufacturers of Avalanche (Synthetic Drug XLR-11) which caused the death of Victor Orlando Woolson at 19 in 2012.
I started 2020 in January with a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, to a Federal Court Hearing for Charles Burton Ritchie and Benjamin Galecki, who were found Guilty on 24 Federal Charges in 2019 stemming from their business conducted in 2012. A lot of emotions were going around that court room. It not easy to explain how I felt looking at the men who caused the death of my only son, being just a few feet from them, both sitting shackled in their orange jump suits, looking back at me several times during the day. Knowing they were found guilty helped. I stood in front of the Courtroom and read my Victim Impact Statement, followed by Victor’s sister Sarah and Aunt Bonnie reading their own. We had most of the courtroom in tears. It was a very emotional trip for all of us.
The Victim Coordinator dropped the ball, however, and we were not expected in court that day! The judge allowed us to speak at the end of the day, after sitting through hearings all day long. I did enjoy the hearings, however, and learned a lot. We met with the local television station while there to further this story.
After returning home following the victim impact statement in Nevada, I was notified through my attorney that Charles Burton Ritchie was very moved by my statement and wanted to express his condolences in person on the phone. I was not interested at that time. I also refused to sign anything that said I could not discuss this case. This is the basis for the VOW Foundation! This is the basis for educating the public about this entire case, from how this could happen to what the consequences are, including the death of Victor.
A few different dates were scheduled and rescheduled and the sentencing was finally held via ZoomGov in September. I was able to see the men in their orange jumpsuits from prison on video. This zoom hearing went all day long as well. I was eagerly listening to the hearing, awaiting the sentencing of the murdering criminals. The Judge pointed out and acknowledged the fact that he did not agree with minimum sentences nor the congressional rules for some of the crimes. I did not appreciate his comments in that regard. He did note that he had to do his job as directed.
The crime with the most consequences the men were found guilty of is “Continued Criminal Enterprise” which is known as the Federal Kingpin Law. Mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years to Life is the sentence required for this crime. Thank goodness! I have a feeling that without this, the judge would have given these men many less years! It seems a joke to me that for the other 23 crimes, the men were given 5-7 years each, but all years to be concurrent - Like they don’t matter, no consequence for them! This sickens me, but this is our justice system, that the Judge thought was too harsh!
I would like to write a book someday about this entire experience. There is a documentary from Las Vegas titled “Merchant of Misery” which can be found on the VOW Website and on YouTube and KLAS-TV8 from Las Vegas. Victor’s story is included in this documentary, which is just a short part of the story. This is certainly history. How two men could create a product so easily and distribute it all over the United States becoming Millionaires, starting a film production company (using blood money, mind you) and continuing to mingle with the rich and famous, while their products were causing havoc and harm all over the Country. There is much more to this story. There have been criminal trials in other states, one which was a hung jury, then the appellate court threw it out on a technicality. There were two cases that the Judge also sentenced the men to that day on ZoomGov while I attended. They were given additional years, but all concurrent. However, those two were plea deals which cannot be overturned. The Nevada Case is being appealed. I sure am praying for the higher courts to deny the appeal. This has gone on long enough!
Following the prison sentence of 20 years, prison sentences for the following additional crimes found guilty in Nevada were imposed upon each defendant as follows: On Count 2, Conspiracy to engage in financial transactions to promote unlawful activity, 84 months (which is 7 years); Count 3, Conspiracy to transport funds to promote unlawful activity, 84 months (which is 7 years); Counts 4 through 7, Transporting funds to promote unlawful activities, 84 months (which is 7 years), Count 8, Conspiracy to launder money instruments, 84 months (which is 7 years), Count 9, Conspiracy to commit mail fraud, 60 months (which is 5 years), County 10 to 13, Mail Fraud, 60 months (which is 5 years), Count 14, Conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 60 months (which is 5 years), Counts 15 to 19, Wire Fraud, 60 months (which 5 years), Count 22, Conspiracy to Manufacture, Possess with intent to distribute, and distribute a controlled substance analog to the extent intended for human consumption, 84 months (which is 7 years), Count 23, Manufacture of a controlled substance analog intended for human consumption, 84 months (which is 7 years). All sentences shall be concurrent.
Following prison, the Judge provided for supervised release for three years, with a list of restrictions. They requested a prison in Pensacola, Florida near their families. They will be housed in a prison that will comfortably educate and provide rehabilitation at the taxpayer’s cost. The location was not decided upon that day.
The Federal Analog Law needs strengthening, it is a very difficult law to enforce and prosecute. Victor’s story has been told on the floor of Congress by Congressman John Katko introducing Legislation which would help with this problem. The Legislation did not pass the Senate. Congressman Katko has bipartisan support and has again introduced Legislation to help with synthetic drug laws. This newer Legislation - The SIMSA Act – Stop the Importation and Manufacture of Synthetic Drug Analog Act – continues to gain support in Washington.
Synthetic drugs continue to cause harm and death. I hope the information and education provided by Victor’s story in our State Capital in Albany, Washington DC, in Federal Court in Nevada, and online through many avenues, has helped bring awareness to this huge problem in our Country.
For more information or further details, please contact me via email at email@example.com. Thank you. Teresa Woolson.