Businessman pleads guilty to illegal importation, money laundering

By SDCN Editor

San Diego, CA–Nine2Five, LLC and its owner, Sebastian Guthery, pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to felony crimes related to the illegal importation of kratom, an opioid-like plant, and the subsequent laundering of proceeds from the sale of the illegally imported product, federal prosecutors said. 

In pleading guilty, Guthery admitted to the importation of 9,800 kilograms of kratom from Indonesia through a consignee by means of an invoice that falsely declared the product to be Flora Food Botanical Soil Conditioner (Eucheuma spinosum)/fertilizer without reasonable cause to believe that was true. The invoice submitted with the entry package stated that the value of the goods was $61,728.

The company, in pleading guilty to money laundering, admitted wiring $60,000 from an account at Wells Fargo Bank in San Diego to Bank Mandiri in Indonesia for the cost of the purchase, transportation, and importation of kratom from Indonesia. The funds constituted criminally derived proceeds of the illegal importation of kratom in the manner acknowledged by Guthery in his plea.

“Homeland Security Investigations San Diego is deeply immersed in the global fight against illegal importation and money laundering,” said Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations San Diego Chad Plantz. “Attempting to smuggle even more harmful substances into our communities will not be tolerated. Further, deceiving law enforcement is illegal and by doing so only increases the severity of penalties.”

Kratom is indigenous to Southeast Asia. Its leaves, when ingested, have both narcotic and stimulant-like effects. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the use of kratom is associated with serious health risks, including but not limited to seizures, liver damage, addiction, and death. Side effects may also include respiratory depression, nervousness, agitation, aggression, sleeplessness, hallucinations, delusion, tremors, loss of libido, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and severe withdrawal signs and symptoms.

On Feb. 28, 2014, the FDA issued Import Alert 54-15, directing inspectors to detain products that appeared to contain kratom as well as named products from specified firms without inspection and to deny them entry into the United States. This Import Alert remains in effect.

“Making false declarations about the nature of products imported into the United States will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “The Department of Justice and our agency partners are committed to protecting our nation from importation crimes and related offenses.” 

Sentencing is scheduled to take place on Oct. 6, before U.S. District Judge Todd Robinson.

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