Federal sentencing hearings set for smoke shop owners in synthetics scheme

Tracy Sheldon and Chad Zeske appear in Green Bay's federal court. Jan. 22, 2020. (WBAY Photo)
Tracy Sheldon and Chad Zeske appear in Green Bay's federal court. Jan. 22, 2020. (WBAY Photo)(WBAY)
Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 1:19 PM CDT
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NEW YORK (WBAY) - Northeast Wisconsin smoke shop owners are scheduled to be sentenced for their roles in a federal drug investigation.

Tracy Lynn Sheldon and Chad Allen Zeske pleaded guilty to charges in a synthetic cannabinoids distribution scheme in the Southern District of New York.

Sheldon’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 29. Zeske’s sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 12.

The couple was taken into custody Jan. 22, 2020, during the execution of federal search and arrest warrants in Peshtigo.

Federal court documents obtained by Action 2 News allege Sheldon and Zeske “operated and participated in a scheme to distribute massive wholesale and retail quantities of smokeable synthetic cannabinoids, containing controlled substances and controlled substance analogues, throughout the United States.”

A Grand Jury alleged the criminal activity started “in or about 2013″ and continued into 2019.

The charges also alleged the couple imported the synthetics from China for their supply.

According to Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve, the NYPD, Homeland Security, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service were tipped off after seeing the synthetic cannabinoids coming through New York from China.

The products were sold under several names, including “K2″ and “Spice.”

The couple owns smoke shops in Michigan and Wisconsin. The charges state they sold synthetics there. Some were “misleadingly marked” as “potpourri” or “incense.”

In 2018, a minor purchased some of the of the synthetic drug from one of their smoke shops and “suffered an acute medical episode,” according to the grand jury indictment. The minor suffered severe vomiting, loss of consciousness and difficulty breathing.

Shortly after this, Tracy Sheldon texted a co-conspirator saying she did not need an additional supply for awhile because she “had some younger kids get there [sic] hands on them” and “have [a] bad result.” Sheldon described it as a “seizure” and said she was “really limiting her sales for a bit.”

Chad Zeske communicated with a co-conspirator about transactions and payments and “orchestrated retail sales” with Tracy, according to the indictment.

During a search of their home, Sheriff Sauve says a “significant amount of U.S. currency” was seized.

Both cases were moved to the Southern District of New York for prosecution.

The NYPD says the “long-term investigation of this case was partially funded by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.”

The NYPD received assistance from Brown County Drug Task Force, Northeast Drug Enforcement Group, Green Bay Police, Marinette County Sheriff’s Office, Marinette Police, Peshtigo Police, the Southern District of New York, Homeland Security Investigations, Department of Revenue and United States Postal Inspection Service.

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