But all I did was sell it

“Well, that’s not where we’re making our money.”

– Defendant Joe Swafford, explaining to a methamphetamine cook who bought large quantities of iodine from him, why so much of the other stock in Swafford’s store was out of date.

Swafford operated a store called Broadway Home and Garden, which, as it turned out, was a front for his high-volume iodine sales business. Twenty meth cooks testified at his trial that they routinely bought iodine from him to use in their recipes.

Swafford was convicted of selling more than 3,000 gallons of the stuff. He complained that his 30-year sentence was too stiff because it was based, in part, on a sentencing guidelines cross reference that treated his iodine sales as conduct involving meth manufacturing.

I wasn’t convicted of cooking meth, Swafford protested. You didn’t have to be, replied 6th Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton in United States v. Swafford. You just needed to be “involved.” And, oh brother, were you ever:

Swafford purchased large amounts of iodine from wholesalers, well beyond any amount that reasonably could be sold for legitimate purposes. He in turn sold the same volume of iodine to known methamphetamine cooks. And he accepted only cash for the iodine purchases, though he accepted credit cards or checks for other purchases.

The pattern of sales to methamphetamine cooks cements this conclusion. They came to Swafford on a regular basis, up to three times a week, to buy the iodine. …

When a police officer was in the store just as one methamphetamine cook entered, Swafford met the customer at the door, directed him to read literature about dog shampoo, then sold him iodine after the officer left.

Swafford made deliveries as well, Sutton noted.

One methamphetamine cook, Brian Storey, testified that the two had the kind of ongoing “relationship” that “[w]hen he sees me, he knows what I’m there for.” …

Storey wanted to stay out of Tennessee due to pending gun charges, so once or twice a month Swafford would meet Storey at a convenience store in neighboring Alabama, where people “very seldom ever see[ ] any police,” and Storey would hand Swafford up to $3,500 in cash for a box of 10–18 pounds of iodine out of the back of
Swafford’s truck.

The 6th Circuit had no trouble affirming Swafford’s sentence.

Swafford would have had no trouble at all had he just stuck with selling household sundries.

And keeping fresh stock on the shelves.

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