Court docs: Check out the rise & fall of a million-dollar Mid County drug trafficking operation
Published 12:40 am Thursday, January 20, 2022
NEDERLAND — While most of the defendants have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a drug raid at a Nederland business in 2020, court documents reveal how the multi-million dollar enterprise came to be.
In 2002, Jesse Hackett began working for online chemical company ScienceLab.com. The company’s primary sales were petrochemicals, ethers, chloroform, 1,4 butanediol (BDO) and lab equipment.
BDO was the chemical at the center of the investigation surrounding Jake’s Fireworks and Right Price Chemicals in Nederland.
Hackett was a warehouse manager for the online company, where he became familiar with the company’s shipping and receiving process.
While most costumers were universities, veterinarians and family-run chemical stores, BDO was the highest selling product sold to residential addresses.
According to testimony signed by Hackett, ScienceLab.com required buyers using a residential address to sign an “end-user agreement” and provide a driver’s license to deter people who wanted to use the chemical for human consumption.
In 2010, Hackett began to consider opening his own company, naming it Right Price Chemicals and designed a logo for the business. Hackett talked to his cousin, Jake Daughtry, who had recently graduated from college.
The two went to Jake Daughtry’s dad, Joseph Daughtry, who was excited about the idea and suggested buying an 18-wheeler to start the business, according to documents.
Over the next year, the guys bought the 18-wheeler and named 30 chemicals to put on the company’s website. Jake Daughtry worked Google’s algorithm for Right Price Chemicals to appear on the first search page for a particular chemical.
According to court filings, Jake Daughtry did not want to initially sell BDO and chloroform because he learned through internet research that people used the chemicals as narcotics.
In the first year, RPC was not profitable, which was when Jake Daughtry began to reconsider selling BDO. The court document said that the business became profitable and the two began selling the chemical online using credit cards and PayPal. From 2013-2016, Jake Daughtry ordered BDO from a company called Univar before switching to SilverFern in 2016. The orders were for one or two 55-gallon drums.
Initially, RPC sold the chemical in 500-milliliter, liter and 4-liter bottles but added 100-mililiter bottles by 2016. Nearly all of the sales were to personal addresses, according to court records.
Somewhere between 2014 and 2016, Hackett became aware of an email sent to Jake Daughtry by a mother of a RPC customer. In the email, the mother said her daughter drank the chemical and nearly died. The two discussed the email but did not consider removing BDO from their website.
In September 2016, Hackett and Daughtry exchanged emails after a customer’s credit card was declined. Daughtry said “This is like #10 lol. You think he’d figure it out by now.” Hackett replied with “Wow! Poor guy. If he would just stop drinking it, he would understand.”
On multiple occasions, Hackett said he told the Daughtrys about end-user agreements to protect the company, but Hackett said the Daughtrys declined to get the agreements because they had done their own research and felt it was unnecessary.
Hackett ultimately left RPC in late 2016 over a pay dispute.
In 2017, Austin Dial began working on the company’s website, through which BDO was sold. Dial said he was aware of customer complaints, but continued to maintain the website.
In early 2017, Joshua Whineant called RPC and spoke to Jake Daughtry and gave his name and order number. At the time, Whisneant told Daughtry he used the chemical for pain relief and as a sleep aid. Whisneant asked Daughtry if he knew of anyone using it for those purposes, and Daughtry replied in the affirmative and said “I’m glad the product is working for you.”
In 2018, federal agents began to investigate the company after two deaths in West Virginia and Florida were linked back to BDO sold by Right Price Chemicals.
An undercover agent walked into the building and met with Kip Daughtry, a cousin of Jake, who worked with the company. Kip Daughtry called Tanner Jorgensen for the change order. The agent was able to purchase eight 1-liter bottles for $3,390.
While there, the agent told Kip Daughtry that he intended to resell the chemical in Florida, and Kip Daughtry told him that people mix BDO with orange juice and pineapple juice. Jorgensen said he was aware the product was being sold for human consumption and alluded to meetings with Jake and Joseph Daughtry about people becoming ill after consuming BDO.
In 2019, Texas Department of Public Safety Agents arrested Whisneant after searching his Silsbee home. During the search, officers found multiple guns, silencers, ammo and drugs. Officers found BDO in four-gallon sized bottles.
On July 15, 2020, federal agents raided Right Price Chemicals and Jake’s Fireworks on Twin City Highway in Nederland. The company made $4.5 million in BDO sales from 2016-2020, according to court records.
Following the raid, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office released a 24-count indictment against nine defendants on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Jake Daughtry, along with his father and mother, Joseph and Sandra Daughtry, were charged along with Hackett, Whisneant, Kip Daughtry, Jordan King, Jorgensen and Dial.
Charges against King and Sandra Daughtry were eventually dismissed, while all of the other defendants except Joseph Daughtry pleaded guilty to various charges. Joseph Daughtry had not pled as of Wednesday afternoon. The others are awaiting sentencing.