WASHINGTON, May 13 (UPI) -- Tommy Chong, formerly one half of the comic stoner duo Cheech & Chong, has pleaded guilty to violating federal drug paraphernalia laws, the Justice Department said Tuesday.
The department alleged Chong was selling the equipment over the Internet.
Although Chong and his enterprise are located in California, the government was able to bring charges in Western Pennsylvania because of the nature of Internet sales.
And though Chong's whole public persona was the embodiment of the classic '60s pot head, the government made its case through at least two undercover stings, videotaping a sale in Texas and setting up an undercover "head shop" in Pennsylvania.
U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said Tuesday that Chong and Nice Dreams Enterprises LLC, doing business as Chong Glass and Chongglass.com, pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of violating federal drug paraphernalia laws.
Chong, 64, of Pacific Palisades, Calif., and Nice Dreams Enterprises of Gardena, Calif., each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab to one count of conspiracy to sell and to offer for sale drug paraphernalia.
As part of a plea agreement, Chong agreed to forfeit the domain name, Chongglass.com, all items of drug paraphernalia seized by the United States, bank balances representing proceeds of the offense, and cash seized by the United States.
Judge Schwab scheduled sentencing for Sept. 11.
The law provides for a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for Chong. The law also provides for a maximum total sentence of three years probation and a $500,000 fine for Nice Dreams Enterprises LLC.
The Justice Department did not say what sentence prosecutors would recommend.
The government said that Nice Dreams Enterprises was the family business of Chong and others.
Chong Glass offered for sale and sold thousands of marijuana pipes and bongs through its Web site, chongglass.com, and advertised drug paraphernalia through the Web site, tommychong.com, according to the government.
Chong Glass offered for sale, sold and shipped marijuana bongs and pipes to drug paraphernalia stores, commonly known as "head shops," located throughout the United States, again according to the government.
Chong Glass sold glass marijuana pipes and bongs that contained a Tommy Chong face on each of the items, the government said. Some of the names of the bongs and pipes were "Tijuana," "Cheech," "Big Bamboo," "Bombay," and "Babe."
The government said Chong invested more than $290,000 in Nice Dreams and actively promoted Chong Glass's line of marijuana bongs and pipes by making personal appearances at drug paraphernalia head shops throughout the country, posing with customers of the stores, and signing autographs.
Undercover law enforcement officers attended one such appearance in December 2002, and purchased two Chong Glass marijuana bongs at a drug paraphernalia store in Texas, the government said.
During that sale, Chong signed the two marijuana bongs for the undercover agents and autographed a T-shirt depicting himself smoking from a bong. The sale was recorded using undercover audio and video recording devices.
On Feb. 14, law enforcement agents in Beaver Falls, Pa., made an undercover purchase of several marijuana bongs and pipes depicting Chong's face on them, the government said.
Some of the bongs were personally autographed by Thomas Chong.
The bongs and pipes were shipped to the government's "undercover location" called Thompson Novelties in Beaver Falls from the Chong Glass business.
On Feb. 24, law enforcement officers executed search warrants at the business facilities of Chong Glass and Chong's residence.
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