2 plead guilty in drug lab case connected to 5-alarm Providence mill fire

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) —  Two men pleaded guilty in federal court to charges tied to a butane hash oil (BHO) manufacturing lab that was blamed for starting a 2015 fire that destroyed a Kinsley Avenue mill building.

Christopher White, 51, of Warwick, pleaded guilty to endangering human life while illegally manufacturing a controlled substance. Graeme Marshall, 52, of Cranston, pleaded guilty to money laundering.

White had signed a plea agreement earlier this month, but Marshall was scheduled to stand trial in October.

As first reported by Target 12 about a week after the March 10, 2015 fire, Providence Fire Department and state fire marshal investigators discovered butane tanks, tubes filled with marijuana and half-burned piles of the drug on the floor of 498 Kinsley Avenue after fire destroyed the 86,000 square-foot brick building.

White and Marshall operated the business Grosca in a section of the property, where they designed, produced and sold indoor equipment for marijuana cultivation.

According to court documents, White and Marshall also allegedly made over 1,000 grams of the marijuana derivative in the building over a two-year period leading up to the fire. The drug sold for between $15 and $30 a gram according to filings.

Investigators allege proceeds from hash oil sales were deposited into a Grosca bank account. The transactions were designed to conceal the source of the drug sales, court documents stated.

White and Marshall, who were indicted on 21 counts each, are scheduled to be sentenced on November 13, 2017.

Grosca was one of two tenants in the sprawling mill structure that also housed the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, but RIPAC neither grew nor stored medical marijuana in their office.

At the time of the White and Marshall indictments, the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office filed charges in three other suspected BHO cases.

In Westerly, a November 2015 BHO fire was blamed on Scott Slagel, 41, who was sentenced to three years probation in February after he made a plea agreement with the government.

An alleged BHO lab case in West Warwick prompted the arrest of Tyler Crespo who is also charged with endangering human life while illegally manufacturing a controlled substance. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in September.

The fourth investigation involves allegations a South Kingstown BHO lab explosion in a Hemlock Road home in July of 2015 killed a man who was identified in court documents by the initials B.C.

Dillon Kantlehner is charged with endangering human life while illegally manufacturing a controlled substance, with jury selection scheduled to start next month.

Kantlehner was hospitalized for two months with severe burns. The indictment states B.C. died in October 2016 from burns.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau