Jason Glenn Catoe, 24, of Jonesborough, received the three-year prison term following a two-hour sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Greeneville on Wednesday. In March 2013, Catoe agreed to plead guilty to possession of Schedule I drugs with intent to distribute and a charge of structuring currency transactions to evade reporting requirements.
According to court records, Catoe opened Ultimate Smoke in March 2011, selling synthetic marijuana, bath salts and other drug paraphernalia, arguing at the time the products were merely incense and potpourri and were not meant for human consumption.
Prosecutors said Catoe and all of the employees of Ultimate Smoke knew the products were for human consumption and for people “to get high” using. During Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, U.S. Attorney Neil Smith said the shop sold approximately $8,000 a day in synthetic drugs.
Local law enforcement officials conducted undercover purchases of the products and raided the Ultimate Smoke shop, seizing cash, bath salts and synthetic marijuana. In addition, federal agents conducted a search of Catoe’s Jonesborough residence and found more than $290,000 in cash, various types of synthetic drugs, five firearms (including an AR-15 style rifle), more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and two bullet-proof vests.
Smith said on Wednesday the amount of synthetic drugs seized was equivalent to 100 to 400 kilograms of marijuana.
In a letter to the court, Catoe said he discovered synthetic marijuana in 2009 and saw it as a great opportunity to do something with his life other than working at minimum wage jobs. At the time, Catoe was a high school dropout working 80 hours a week at two jobs.
Catoe wrote in his letter that he believed he was operating within the bounds of the law from March 2011 until February 2012 by relying on the assurances of the products’ manufacturers that no banned substances were included in the products.
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