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Judge denies motion to dismiss indictment in Blackstone Labs criminal case

Gavel 2020

A judge in Fort Lauderdale, Florida last month denied a request to dismiss criminal charges in an indictment against a sports supplement company, Blackstone Labs, and its former executives.

A trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 22 and is estimated to last four weeks, according to court filings by federal prosecutors.

The defendants are charged with introducing into interstate commerce unapproved new drugs, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, money laundering and other offenses.

Defense lawyers had argued the indictment against Blackstone Labs and others should be dismissed with prejudice due to violations of the Speedy Trial Act, which establishes limits for completing various stages of a federal criminal prosecution.

In an Oct. 19 order, U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas denied the defendants’ motion.

“Defendants decided not to gamble on going to trial before the government was arguably as ready as they would perhaps be later,” Dimitrouleas wrote. “Defendants’ strategy was apparently wanting to give their counsel more time to prepare a defense.”

He also rejected the notion that prosecutors acted in “bad faith.”

“[T]he Court does not find that there was a chronic failure in the government’s complying with their discovery obligations,” Dimitrouleas concluded.

The judge, in a separate order last month, denied a request by the defense to suppress evidence based on allegedly unlawful searches and seizures. Defense lawyers had argued two affidavits signed by an FDA agent misrepresented the legal status of a number of ingredients—including NAC (N-acetyl-L-cysteine)—that Blackstone Labs marketed in its products.

Dimitrouleas ruled the motion was untimely and added, “Nevertheless, the court again finds that affidavits contain sufficient probable cause, without the challenged statements.”

Several defendants charged in the 14-count indictment unsealed in March 2019 have pleaded guilty, are cooperating with the government and may testify at trial, court filings show. Prosecutors last month filed an unopposed motion to reschedule sentencing for Ventech Labs LLC, which manufactured supplements for Blackstone Labs, and its owner Anthony Ventrella.

“Ventrella is required under his plea agreement … to cooperate with the government and is an anticipated government trial witness,” U.S. Department of Justice attorney David Frank wrote in an Oct. 12 motion.

Frank requested sentencing for Ventrella and Ventech Labs be rescheduled from Nov. 29 until January 2022.

Similarly, prosecutors have requested Dimitrouleas reschedule sentencings for other cooperating witnesses, including former Blackstone Labs employee David Winsauer and Robert DiMaggio. According to the indictment, DiMaggio helped start Blackstone Labs.

Testimony by the cooperating witnesses could be damning in the upcoming trial against Blackstone Labs’ co-founders Aaron Singerman and Phillip Braun. Defendant James Boccuzzi, who was the supplement company’s lead salesman, also is set to go the trial.

DOJ and defense lawyers have not commented on the case in response to previous requests by Natural Products Insider.

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