Big Willies' owners convicted of drug crime

2012-08-24T16:37:00Z 2012-09-07T13:03:59Z Big Willies' owners convicted of drug crimeBy JENNY MICHAEL | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

The owners of a Mandan business could face prison time after being convicted of conspiracy to deliver synthetic cannabinoids.

A jury convicted William Nickel and Ryan Zueger of the Class B felony on Friday at the Morton County Courthouse. South Central District Judge David Reich dismissed the same charge against Casandra Nickel during the trial. Reich will sentence William Nickel and Zueger following presentence investigations. They could face up to 10 years in prison.

William Nickel and Zueger own Big Willies ATP, a smoke shop in Mandan. They previously have been charged for possessing synthetic cannabinoids in 2010 shortly after the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy enacted an emergency rule to ban such substances, which mimic the effects of marijuana. The charges were dismissed by judges who found the public had not been adequately informed about the law that made the substances illegal.

In the case the trio now faces, Casandra Nickel dropped off a package at a Mandan shipping store to have it shipped overnight to West Hollywood, Calif., for $143.55. The owner of the store was suspicious of the contents, and Nickel initially would not reveal the contents, court documents said. Later, she said the package contained property to be returned.

The owner of the store told police on Oct. 4 that he has a policy of opening suspicious packages. He opened the box in front of law enforcement officers. They found Ziploc bags containing plastic tubes labeled "Green Cross Private Reserve" with plant material inside. The substance tested positive at the state crime laboratory for JWH-122, one of the many substances made illegal by the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy's emergency rule in 2010.

Officers spoke to William Nickel and Zueger on Oct. 6. They said a customer had requested a product called Green Cross Private Reserve, and they found a supplier of it. Zueger said he and Nickel sent the company a copy of North Dakota laws, and the company said the substance was legal in North Dakota.

Zueger estimated spending $40,000 to $50,000 on the product through Sept. 21, 2011. Eventually, the company informed Zueger and Nickel that the substance was not legal in North Dakota, and they agreed to send it back for credit. The package Casandra Nickel was sending to West Hollywood was the store's supply of Green Cross Private Reserve.

Defense attorneys had tried to suppress evidence from the search of the package, saying it was an illegal search and seizure because the shipping company acted as law enforcement in opening the package. Reich denied the suppression motion earlier this week.

Reach reporter Jenny Michael at 250-8225 or jenny.michael@bismarcktribune.com.

Copyright 2015 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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