Witnesses testify they sold K-2 for former Pipe Dreamz owner Robert Sharp
Sharp being sentenced for manufacturing, distributing synthetic marijuana
CEDAR RAPIDS — A co-defendant, convicted of distributing synthetic marijuana testified Monday that he made K-2 or synthetic marijuana in the basement of his house for Robert Sharp, former Pipe Dreamz head shop owner.
Wayne Watkins, testifying during Sharp’s sentencing hearing, said he didn’t work much at the store but Sharp had him packaging the synthetics, and eventually making it by spraying chemicals on the leafy plants, which were sold by Watkins and Sharp to customers at the store and to other people who sold for Sharp outside the store.
That chemical mixture makes the plant a synthetic cannabinoid, which produces the same effect as THC or marijuana, Dr. Lee Fang, a Drug Enforcement Agency drug scientist specialist, testified during the hearing.
Sharp, 37, of Cedar Rapids, pleaded guilty last October to one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance AB-Fubinaca, a synthetic drug; one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance; and one count of aiding and abetting the possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. AB-Fubinaca. The synthetics were sold under various labels such as Bling Bling Monkey, Super Nova and AK-47 from Pipe Dreamz, which was shut down following a DEA raid as part of the national crackdown on synthetic drugs.
He faces up to 60 years in federal prison.
Sharp attempted to withdraw his guilty plea earlier this year, claiming his former lawyer gave him bad advice for the plea and that he didn’t know the synthetics contained illegal controlled substances or analogues, but a judge denied the withdrawal.
Prosecutors called several witnesses on Monday who sold the illegal substances for Sharp, since he disputes knowing the drugs were illegal controlled substances.
U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade took the matter under advisement and will schedule another hearing in a few weeks to allow the prosecution and defense to make final arguments and she will make her ruling at that time.
Watkins, convicted of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, AB-Fubinaca, and sentenced to nine years in prison, testified he met Sharp in Peoria, Ill., when Sharp owned or managed Smoke N Ink in 2013. Watkins said he was selling K-2 or “Spice” for Sharp but not from the store.
After Sharp moved to Iowa and opened Pipe Dreamz in 2013, Watkins also moved and Sharp had Watkins making it out of his Cedar Rapids house. Sharp would buy the leafy plants and synthetic cannabinoid chemicals in bulk and Watkins would spray the plants with the chemicals.
Watkins said Sharp told him they were legal and he had consulted a lawyer and also checked the DEA website for banned substances.
Kimberly Muzzarelli, of Washington, Ill., testified about buying synthetics from Sharp’s Illinois shop and eventually started selling it for him in 2012 through 2013. Sharp told her the synthetics were legal but she said she knew they weren’t. She was making about $700 to $900 a week from her portion of the sales for Sharp.
Hadi Sharairi, former owner of Zombies and current owner of Almost Paradise in Iowa City, who is charged with conspiracy to distribute AB-Fubinaca and THJ-2201 in 2014, testified about getting synthetics from Sharp in 2014.
Sharairi said Sharp sent him a letter in March, suggesting Sharairi knew about him getting his former lawyer to test the synthetics for illegal substances but Sharairi said he didn’t know about it. Sharairi said the purpose of the letter was to tell him how to testify at this hearing or Sharp would “say things about me.”
James Sackfield, a retired Peoria area sheriff’s investigator and Sharp’s step-father, testified Sharp told him he checked with law enforcement when he opened the Peoria store to ensure the synthetics he sold were legal.