Western District of Washington
For Immediate Release
February 25, 2003
PSYLOCYBE FANATICUS OWNER AND EMPLOYEES INDICTED
United States Attorney John McKay, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special-Agent-In-Charge John Bott, National Park Service (NPS) Acting Chief Ranger Tim Simonds, and United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Acting Inspector-in-Charge William P. Atkins announce today the Indictment of four Washington State residents for manufacturing and conspiring to manufacture psilocyn, a controlled substance, commonly found in hallucinogenic mushrooms. The Indictment in this case, returned by a Federal Grand Jury on February 22, 2003, charges ROBERT WILLIAM McPHERSON, age 56, the owner of Psylocybe Fanaticus, and his wife, MARGARET M. McPHERSON, age 48, both of Amanda Park, Washington; STEPHEN COGGIN, age 51, of Neilton, Washington; and JUDITH CHRISTINE KREIGH, age 47, of Amanda Park, Washington, with conspiracy to distribute psilocyn and the manufacture of psilocyn in Western Washington. The charges carry a maximum sentence of twenty years' imprisonment.
According to court records, the investigation of ROBERT McPHERSON and Psylocybe Fanaticus was prompted in September 1999, when law enforcement agents around the country received calls from concerned parents whose children had received packages from Psylocybe Fanaticus. Those packages contained syringes and instructions on how to grow hallucinogenic mushrooms. Psylocybe Fanaticus is a mail order business that sells hallucinogenic mushroom spores. ROBERT McPHERSON operated a website on the internet, WWW.FANATICUS.COM , and advertised in the High Times magazine to promote the sale of hallucinogenic mushroom spores. The website provides instructions on cultivating mushroom spores to manufacture a hallucinogenic strain of mushrooms. Psylocybe Fanaticus's web site and advertisement in High Times magazine state that the mushrooms grown with the spores will be magic mushrooms. The website also provides a first person description of the mental disorientation and physical sickness that results from eating hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Through the course of this investigation, agents learned that STEPHEN COGGIN and JUDITH KREIGH were employees of ROBERT McPHERSON and Psylocybe Fanaticus. STEPHEN COGGIN was responsible for picking up mail at a Post Office box in Seattle, Washington, addressed to Psylocybe Fanaticus. COGGIN lived at a residence in Neilton, Washington, owned by the McPHERSONs. Incoming mail addressed to Psylocybe Fanaticus was also received at a Post Office box in Amanda Park, Washington, where it was picked up by ROBERT McPHERSON and JUDITH KREIGH. ROBERT McPHERSON, JUDITH KREIGH, and STEPHEN COGGIN were also sending out packages on a daily basis at the Post Office in Amanda Park. Law enforcement agents believe that the packages contained hallucinogenic mushroom spores and material to grow them and were sent in response to orders placed with Psylocybe Fanaticus.
On July 17, 2000, the DEA, utilizing an undercover return address, placed an order for mushroom spores through Psylocybe Fanaticus's Post Office box address at Amanda Park. On July 31, 2000, the DEA received a package containing five plastic syringes each containing clear liquid with small particles (spores) floating within the liquid. The package also contained two books on cultivating "magic mushrooms" with the contents in the syringes. In February 2001, the DEA sent another order to Psylocybe Fanaticus and received another two syringes with spores in a liquid substance. The spores were grown according to the books which accompanied the syringes and instructions on the WWW.FANATICUS.COM website and the agent was able to produce several crops of mushrooms. The DEA laboratory confirmed the presence of psilocyn, a Schedule I controlled substance, in the mushrooms.
ROBERT McPHERSON was arrested on February 18, 2003, at his Amanda Park residence when agents executed a search warrant. Inside the residence was a mushroom growing operation with live mushrooms. After being advised of his constitutional rights, ROBERT McPHERSON admitted that he was growing the mushrooms for his mushroom spore business. On February 21, 2003, United States Magistrate Judge J. Kelley Arnold ordered ROBERT McPHERSON permanently detained pending trial. The arraignment of ROBERT McPHERSON on the Indictment is scheduled for March 5, 2003, before Magistrate Judge Arnold.
STEPHEN COGGIN's Neilton, Washington, residence was also searched on February 18, 2003. COGGIN was not present during the search, but was subsequently arrested. Agents found supplies of syringes and other mushroom growing equipment sent out by Psylocybe Fanaticus to customers to grow hallucinogenic mushrooms. COGGIN was arraigned on the Indictment on February 21, 2003. He was released on bond pending trial. A trial date for COGGIN is scheduled for April 21, 2003, before United States District Court Judge Robert J. Bryan.
The arraignment of JUDITH KREIGH and MARGARET McPHERSON is scheduled for Thursday, February 27, 2003, at 12:00 p.m., before United States Magistrate Judge Arnold at the Union Station Courthouse in Tacoma, Washington.
The Indictment is based on a joint investigation by agents and investigators from the Drug Enforcement Administration in Seattle, National Park Service, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
Members of the public are reminded that an Indictment contains only a charge. The defendants are presumed innocent of the charge and it will be the government's burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
For further information, please contact John Hartingh, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, at (206) 553-4110; Doug Whalley, Assistant United States Attorney, at (206) 553-4882; or Ye-Ting Woo, Assistant United States Attorney, at (206) 553-2268.