Au­thor­i­ties dis­man­tle al­leged syn­thetic drug net­work

North Penn Life - - NEWS - By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@jour­nal­reg­is­ter.com

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.

Photo by CARL HESSLER JR.

Mont­gomery and Le­high county au­thor­i­ties dis­play some of the syn­thetic drugs and drug para­pher­na­lia seized dur­ing the op­er­a­tion.

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