Updated at 5:29 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, with more information.
A Chattanooga business owner, his wife and adult son are facing a slew of drug-related charges in Aspen, Colorado, after authorities there say the trio distributed alcohol, cocaine and other drugs to minors at multiple parties in recent years.
Joseph Lipsey III, who is owner and CEO of Chattanooga-based Lipsey Logistics Worldwide, a trucking and shipping company located at 5600 Brainerd Road, faces charges related to the alleged incidents, records show.
He turned himself in Tuesday and was released after posting $100,000 bond within an hour, according to a Pitkin County (Colorado) court clerk.
Lipsey is charged with distribution of cocaine to a minor, the highest level drug felony available under Colorado law that comes with a mandatory prison sentence of between eight and 32 years upon conviction, the Aspen Daily News reports. He also faces three counts of felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor, three counts of serving alcohol to minors, possession of drug paraphernalia and providing nicotine to minors.
His wife, 44-year-old Shira Lipsey, and son, 19-year-old Joseph Lipsey IV, both were stopped and then escorted by police to the jail on Monday where they turned themselves in, a Pitkin County court clerk said.
Joseph Lipsey IV faces seven charges, including three felonies. And Shira Lipsey faces three charges, including two felonies. Both were transported to the Pitkin County Jail. Their bond was set at $100,000 each, and they both posted bond within an hour after a "family associate" showed up with the money in cash, a court clerk said.
Both Joseph Lipsey III and IV did not return requests for comment, and Shira Lipsey could not be reached for comment.
The investigation into the Lipseys stems from information gleaned during a probe into an unrelated crime, according to Pitkin County court records.
Between Jan. 3 and March 4, authorities interviewed several people — adults and juveniles — known to have either been at the alleged parties or had direct knowledge of the parties.
The main party in question was one alleged to have happened on the night of Jan. 2, during which the Lipseys were passing a plate of cocaine around "like they were passing around vitamins," court records show.
Witnesses told police about 25 high school students gathered at the Lipsey home in Aspen that night and were allowed to drink alcohol, including vodka and champagne, and do cocaine in the presence of both Lipsey parents.
Several minors and some 18- and 19-year-olds were interviewed by police and said they were at the party. But police noted the most telling evidence to be a series of Snapchat videos taken by one of the minors that Jan. 2 night and into the early morning hours of Jan. 3.
In the video, the reports says, Shira Lipsey is seen sitting on a couch next to two unidentified men, court records detail. On the table in front of them is a yellow plate with a "pile of an unknown white powder." The pile is about an inch in diameter, investigators noted. Also on the plate are two "'lines' arranged in a fashion typical of cocaine consumption" and a credit card. A rolled up dollar bill and two green straws are also on the table.
A second video taken just a minute later shows the same scene, the report states, only this time with the younger Joseph Lipsey, his mother and an unknown man. The child who took the video wrote, "This kid's parents are tryna kill me" before sending it to friends.
Then, a third video shows only the plate with the white powder, the credit card and a straw. Before sending that video, the child wrote, "Almost did it all."
Several of those interviewed by police said they had been to the house multiple times for parties, and on each occasion, the Lipseys knowingly let children and young adults — younger than 21 — consume alcohol and illegal drugs, including cocaine, codeine, Adderall and other ADHD medications, Xanax and other muscle relaxants, and prescription painkillers.
A neighbor told police she'd heard of at least four parties each school year at the Lipseys' house. The earliest noted parties took place in 2016.
One person who used to attend the parties regularly told police the Lipseys would have children ranging from ninth to 12th grade and there would be anywhere between 35 and 40 children in attendance.
At least one child told police she was offered alcohol by Shira Lipsey when she was in eighth grade. She would have been 13 or 14 years old at the time.
Two other parties that are specifically named include 2016 and 2018 New Year's parties and an alleged birthday party, which allegedly had a $1,000 budget, one witness told police.
On Feb. 19, authorities executed a search warrant at the Lipsey home. Throughout the house, they found multiple bottles and baggies of drugs and extensive evidence of drug use.
Some of the evidence collected included several plastic bags and containers of an "unknown white powder," bottles of what appears to be codeine or codeine mixtures, marijuana, and "nearly two dozen small bottles of alcohol."
It was in a closet located in a "bunk-room evidently designed for use by children," however, that authorities found most of that evidence. The room is in the lower-most level of the house, according to an arrest warrant.
In at least one police interview with a juvenile who said he had been to multiple Lipsey parties, the room was described as a place where "people usually pass out."
While several people said the Lipsey parents mostly stayed upstairs during the alleged parties, one minor said he saw Joseph Lipsey III open a cabinet and hand bottles of liquor to people who were under 21 years of age and made statements such as "be safe, have fun," court records show.
Another person who regularly attended parties and gatherings at the Lipsey house told police he'd seen as many as eight minors drinking "lean" — a codeine mixture — out of baby bottles at the same time. The mixture was only used during small gatherings and not parties, he said.
He'd also taken Xanax and prescription painkillers and seen others do the same at least once at the Lipsey house, he told police.
Several others noted the parents would come downstairs to check on their children's guests but would not show concern that they were consuming alcohol or doing drugs. In fact, one minor told police the only time she knew of the Lipseys intervening was when they heard a rumor police were coming, so they kicked all of the people out of the house.
One mother told police she heard of an incident in which Shira Lipsey was drunk and "screaming at the police."
Police noted a report made on Sept. 23, 2016, during which police responded to a "large juvenile party." That day, officers "observed and contacted many intoxicated underage persons, and Shira Lipsey shouted at officers while she and [Joseph] Lipsey senior told officers they could not enter the home."
That same mother told police, "It's the house where kids end up because they can drink and they can do drugs."
One juvenile told police she witnessed a high-schooler "acting strangely and aggressively" at one of the Lipsey parties. People there told her he was acting that way because he was "on so much cocaine."
That same girl told police she'd seen people snort Adderall, and when she asked where the minors were getting the medication, she was told "not to worry about it."
Another person told police he was aware of the Lipseys giving "drunk kids rides home," but that the youth "mostly looked out for each other" in an attempt to limit drunken driving.
The three Lipseys are expected to be in court on April 1, according to the Aspen Daily News. They were all ordered to turn in their passports, according to a court clerk.
Joseph Lipsey IV has separate charges, including two felonies, after he drove a 2017 Tesla X off a cliff in January, the Aspen Daily News reported. Two of the four other teen passengers were seriously injured.
His charges in that case include two counts of vehicular assault, two counts of careless driving, and one count of reckless driving, according to Pitkin County court records.
One minor told police that, since the Tesla wreck, she hadn't heard of any parties taking place at the Lipsey house. She said that in the past when the Lipsey parents would not allow parties, it was only because they were concerned about getting in trouble with the police.
Joseph Lipsey III owns several companies, including Atlanta-area water company, Lipsey Mountain Spring Water, which has contracts with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state agencies to supply water and ice to people during natural disasters and emergencies.
Since April 2003, Lipsey Water has delivered emergency water to specific sites throughout the country, according to a 2007 U.S. Department of Defense audit on the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
In 2005, the company got $81 million for services that included providing bottled water to areas hit by Katrina, Bloomberg Businessweek reported in October 2017.
But the company "did not consistently meet time performance requirements of the contract," the Department of Defense audit states, and was overpaid in some instances.
Lipsey missed at least nine of 14 deadlines, failed to document orders properly, submitted improper or inaccurate documentation, and was paid $881,000 in unsupported costs, according to Bloomberg.
Regardless, the company continues to receive government contracts, only now under a different name: Composite Analysis Group Inc., according to a federal contractor database.
In fact, as of October 2017, the company had received $215 million in FEMA relief since hurricane Harvey, Bloomberg reported.
Here in Chattanooga, Lipsey Logistics has brokers who arrange to ship goods on third-party carriers. It also has its own fleet of about 100 semitractor-trailers, according to 2017 news archives. The privately held company only had $2 million in sales at the start in 2010. A milestone came in 2012, when the company crossed the $15 million revenue mark.
Attempts to reach Lipsey Logistics and Lipsey Mountain Spring Water for comment Wednesday were not successful.
Search warrant yields
In a bathroom cabinet believed to contain the belongings of Joseph Lipsey III, investigators found a black leather zippered bag containing a small plastic back that would typically be used for picking up dog waste. Inside that bag, were:
Several lengths of green straws, a metal spoon with an unknown white crystalline powder, a folded piece of tin foil with burn marks on it, and a book of matches.
Both the spoon and tin foil tested positive for cocaine.
Then in a bedroom believed to be that of Joseph Lipsey IV, authorities found drugs and drug paraphernalia concealed throughout the room.
» An unknown white powder was found in a container stored in a nightstand, as well as in a safe on top of the nightstand.
» A backpack contained "nearly two dozen small bottles of alcohol" and a small plastic bag containing more white powder. That powder tested positive for cocaine.
» Under the bed, detectives found a plate with white powder residue and two keychain-sized plastic cards. That powder, however, tested negative for cocaine.
» Officers also found several assorted pill bottles and containing pills that appeared to be Xanax. However, no prescriptions were found.
In the garage, authorities found a tote believed to belong to Joseph Lipsey IV. In it were:
» Several containers that were labeled for marijuana,
» Two baby bottles with residue consistent with codeine or a codeine mixture; and
» Two bottles with a manufacturer's label for codeine.
» A broken glass bong, a flask and a sex toy, along with camping equipment were also found in the tote.
A storage closet in a "bunk-room evidently designed for use by children," officers found:
» A bag containing three large bottles with manufacturer's labels for codeine, most of which were nearly empty.
» About four baby bottles with a syrup-like substance were also found.
» Another bag contained marijuana containers and one "smoking instrument."
» At least one of the marijuana containers actually contained a variety of pills, some of which appeared to be muscle relaxants and Alprazolam, a sedative similar to Xanax.
» A pill bottle designed to hold about 90 tablets was also found in the bag, though it did not have a prescription label. It was full of what appeared to be more Alprazolam.
» In the same bag, officers found two small spoons, one of which had an unknown white powder residue.
» A small nylon mesh bag that was closed with zippers and locked was also in the closet. Inside that bag were two clear plastic baggies, one with an unknown white powder and another with "leafy residue" consistent with marijuana.
» In a dresser drawer in the same closet was a brown bottle. It was empty, but the manufacturer's label indicated it was meant to contain codeine.