published on June 27, 2016 - 11:57 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
Natalie Middleton, 30, of Clovis, pleaded guilty to money laundering proceeds related to the sale of synthetic drugs, commonly known as “spice.”

Spice is the street name for smokable organic plant leaf laced with synthetic cannabinoid.

Middleton purchased a time share in Lake Tahoe with proceeds obtained from the sale of spice, according to federal court documents. According to her plea deal, from January through March 2013, Middleton was employed as a national sales representative for ZenBio LLC, a spice manufacturing and distribution business that started in Florida.

The company distributed these drugs during a five-month span, generating more than $33 million in sales of at least 24 tons of spice.

During the investigation of this case, law enforcement officers seized more than $6 million in cash and assets derived from drug proceeds.

Middleton is scheduled for sentencing on Oct.11. She faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain from the crime.

Last month, a co-conspirator, Timothy New, 33, of Pensacola, Florida pleaded guilty to the fraudulent interstate shipments of misbranded drugs. Co-defendants, Douglas Jason Way, 41, of Evanston, Illinois, and Timothy Ortiz, aka Michael Fitton, 45, of Waukegan, Illinois, have pleaded not guilty to various drug charges and are scheduled for a status conference on Sept. 12. They face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $10 million.

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