D.A. says dealing in ‘highly dangerous’ banned substances will not be tolerated
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
Chester County authorities know the dangers of synthetic drugs: Besides grisly national headlines, such as a bizarre face-chewing attack in Miami last month, a young man ended up at Brandywine Hospital in November after smoking a substance known as “Cloud 9” that he purchased at a Sadsburyville convenience store, police said.
Today, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced the execution of a search warrant at JM Cigars in Exton, where police recovered over 1,000 doses of alleged synthetic drugs, with labels such as California Kronic, Flame Boy, and Great White.
“This search and seizure is intended to send a clear message,” said Hogan. “To every smoke shop, head shop, and convenience store selling these drugs, knock it off, or we are coming after you. Chester County law enforcement will not let you put kids at risk.”
Synthetic drugs go by many names: bath salts, synthetic marijuana, spice, salvia, potpourri, and others. These so-called “designer drugs” are analogues of traditional illegal drugs, such as cocaine and PCP, often with slight chemical alterations intended to evade prosecution, Hogan said.
The drugs, outlawed in Pennsylvania in August, can cause symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, seizures, and violent, sometimes fatal behavior. Hogan said dealers ignore the health risks because the profit margins are so high. He said a dose of the drug typically sold for $15 cost the seller $5.
According to the search warrant affidavit, the JM Cigar store came under scrutiny by Uwchlan Township police in June 2011 after it had been burglarized. When the alleged thieves told police they were stealing “spice,” investigators warned the store’s owner, Jeffrey MacDonald, that the containers labeled “potpourri” and “not for human consumption” would become illegal in August, the affidavit said.
MacDonald assured the police that he would comply with the law, the affidavit said. However, police, who were assisted by the county’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Strike Force, continued to have contact with individuals who cited JM Cigars as their source for synthetic drugs, the affidavit said.
A confidential informant also purchased synthetic drugs from JM Cigars under police supervision, the affidavit said. When called by the police, an employee of JM Cigars confirmed the sales and even stated that he was aware that people were using the drugs to get high. Laboratory analysis of the drugs seized confirmed that they were synthetic/analogue drugs, the affidavit said.
Hogan said that the drugs seized during the execution of the search warrant will also be tested, and any potential criminal charges will await those results.
“This was an excellent joint effort by the Uwchlan Township Police Department and other agencies to stop the flow of these dangerous drugs into our community,” said Uwchlan Police Chief Joseph Pontarelli.
In the 2011 case, Amrish Patel, 49, of King of Prussia, is awaiting trial on drug and reckless endangerment charges, court records said. Police said Patel, who operated Harry’s Quick Stop on Lincoln Highway in Sadsburyville, was selling illicit synthetic drugs.