Authorities dismantle alleged synthetic drug network
Dubbed “Operation Bowls, Bongs and Beyond,” authorities have dismantled an organization that allegedly was involved in the illegal distribution of synthetic cannabinoids and drug paraphernalia.
“This is a major regional corrupt organization that was operating a synthetic drug and drug paraphernalia distribution network, primarily in Montgomery County and Lehigh County, but it actually spanned the tri-state area,” alleged Montgomery County District Attorney oisa setri Ferman.
Ferman, during a joint news conference with Lehigh County District Attorney games Martin Thursday, announced the arrests of 15 individuals from Montgomery, Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties stemming from a year-long investigation of a business known as g & L Wholesale Distributors, Inc., a warehouse located on Hanover Avenue in Allentown.
The company, allegedly owned by Kenneth Zak drossman, 52, of the 8MM block of East Chew Street, Allentown, was responsible for the distribution of socalled synthetic cannabinoids and drug paraphernalia throughout Pennsylvania, as well as New gersey and Delaware, according to authorities.
“One of the reasons this is so troubling to us in law enforcement is that these items are packaged in a way to appeal to young people,” said Ferman, holding packages of synthetic marijuana labeled “Scooby Snacks” or containing “Batman” logos.
“It is marketed in a way to make it appeal to young people to have them think that it is not dangerous. That is what makes it so dangerous. These are toxic, dangerous substances and they are being sold in local convenience stores and gas stations in our community,” Ferman alleged.
gason S. drossman, 24, of Bethlehem, oajwant Singh 7KLnG, 30, RI 2UHfiHOG, LHhigh County, and Malwinder Mangat, 26, of Leesport, Berks County, were identifiHG Ln FRuUW SDSHUV DV SDUWners in “Insense Specailties,” a subsidiary of g & L.
The drossmans, Thind and Mangat were arraigned Thursday before District Court gudge Catherine Hummel-Fried of oed Hill on charges of corrupt organizations, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and manufacture, delivery or possession of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia in connection with their alleged involvement in the enterprise.
Several convenience store owners or operators face similar charges.
They include Yashvant Patel, 49, and Yogesh Patel, 44, each of the 4MM block of Main Street, East dreenYLOOH, LGHnWLfiHG Ln FRuUW papers as owner or operator of The EZ Shoppe in rpper Perkiomen; Amy N. selazquez, 3M, and Ibrahim Saloum, 41, each of the TMM block of Main Street, 6FKZHnNVYLOOH, LGHnWLfiHG in court papers as owner or operator of the Main Street Market in Schwenksville; and Mohammad F. oahman, 43, of the 1MM block of Coventry Circle, Montgomery Township, idenWLfiHG Ln FRuUW SDSHUV DV owner or operator of the r.S. das store in rpper Frederick.
With the charges, authorities alleged the store owners and operators “purchased the products for the purSRVH RI finDnFLDO JDLn ZKLOH disregarding the danger the products pose to the general public.”
Montgomery County prosecutors Nathan Schadler and Heather Levandoski will prosecute the case.
Martin called the illegal synthetic drug business “a serious problem.”
“Serious in the sense that people have committed really atrocious acts while under WKH LnfluHnFH RI WKHVH WySHV of substances,” said Martin, alleging at least one homi- cide in Lehigh was directly attributable to the use of socalled ‘bath salts.”
While it wasn’t connected to the g & L investigation, a recent Pottstown incident, during which smoking a synthetic drug known as “Deadman” had deadly consequences for a Pottstown man, illustrates the dangers of such substances, authorities said.
During the current investigation, authorities executed warrants on g & L and its subsidiary and associates guly 25 and seized numerous packets of suspected synthetic cannabinoids and two tractor trailers full of drug paraphernalia, including thousands of pipes, bongs, grinders, digital scales and packaging materials, according to court papers.
Authorities also identifiHG 20 EDnN DFFRunWV DnG safety deposit boxes associated with the distributor and key members of the alleged narcotics and paraphernaOLD WUDIfiFNLnJ ULnJ, uOWLmately freezing and seizing A9M1,T25 in suspected proceeds of illegal activity, according to court documents.
“The fact that we were able to seize so much money over a two-day period, that tells me that this is a big business and there’s a lot of volume and there’s a lot RI SURfiW. 6R, ,’P FHUWDLnOy concerned that there’s more out there but I think we did make a pretty big dent,” Ferman said. “This is a huge SURfiWDEOH EuVLnHVV DnG WKHVH people are in it for the money.”
A Pennsylvania law banning the sale and possession of synthetic drugs, commonly referred to as “bath salts” and synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic marijuana, took effect in August 2M11.
“As abuse of these synthetic drugs became a trend, law enforcement and health RIfiFLDOV EHJDn WR VHH VLJnLfi- cant increases in reports of violent acts, serious injuries and deaths among young people abusing these drugs,” Ferman said.
In September 2M11, authorities in Montgomery and Lehigh counties began separate initiatives targeting the distribution of synthetic drugs, focusing primarily on where the items were being sold, including gas stations and convenience stores. rsing undercover detectives and informants, authorities purchased quantities of synthetic cannabinoids and drug paraphernalia from numerous gas stations and convenience stores in the two counties, according to authorities.
In speaking with store owners and examining the evidence, authorities realized that the illegal drugs in the local establishments were coming from the same distributor, g & L, authorities alleged.
“g & L is a wholesaler. It’s a warehouse and it was a major distributor. They did not sell retail, they sold to people who would then resell to others,” Ferman alleged.
During an undercover operation, detectives created a fake business in Souderton and detectives posed as shop owners who wanted to buy the products from g & L and its subsidiary, “Insense Specailties”, according to court documents. Authorities alleged the businesses were formed in the fall of 2M11 after synthetic drugs became illegal in Pennsylvania.
“[Detectives] were able on multiple occasions to purchase large amounts, wholesale, of synthetic drugs and drug paraphernalia,” alleged Ferman, adding the items were either purchased directly by undercover detectives or shipped by the businesses to Montgomery County.
Montgomery and Lehigh county authorities display some of the synthetic drugs and drug paraphernalia seized during the operation.