Harford County Task Force Cracks Down on Spice Distribution
Charges pending in two local convenience store cases
[July 8, 2014, Edgewood, MD] On Wednesday, June 11, 2014, members of the Harford County Task Force in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture, Food Nutrition Service Investigative Branch, executed simultaneous search and seizure warrants at two retail convenience stores in the Edgewood area in reference to the distribution of synthetic marijuana, a schedule I controlled dangerous substance commonly referred to as "Spice". The stores involved were identified as the Mystik Mart located at 1713 Hanson Road and the Royal Lands located at 1712 Hanson Road in Edgewood, Maryland. The Task Force began their investigation in March 2014, after receiving numerous tips and complaints that each store, operating independently, was selling Spice to both juveniles and adults. These tips led to undercover purchases of Spice at both locations and ultimately a search and seizure warrant for each business.
At the Mystik Mart, Task Force members recovered a total of (5) packages of synthetic marijuana totaling 20 grams which was concealed under the counter. In addition to the sale of synthetic marijuana, the business sold an array of drug paraphernalia related items including over (60) marijuana smoking pipes, pipe screens, (13) marijuana grinders, approximately (40) glass case pens which purpose is a conversion to crack pipes, copper crack pipe filter pads, and (20) digital scales used for weighing drugs for distribution. The street value of all seized items totaled approximately $2,255 and an additional $5,924 in U.S. Currency was seized from the business.
Across the street, additional tips alleged that the Royal Lands store was not only selling Spice, but was also accepting food stamp / EBT cards as payment for these illegal substances, charging double the price. The search and seizure warrant at the Royal Lands recovered a total of (37) packages of synthetic marijuana totaling 148 grams which was concealed under the counter. In addition to the sale of synthetic marijuana, the business sold an array of drug paraphernalia behind the counter which was systematically placed for recognition by drug dealers and users. A total of (39) marijuana smoking pipes, (90) "Love Roses" which purpose is a conversion to crack pipes, copper crack pipe filter pads, (6) marijuana grinders, (7) digital scales, and (530) packages of glassine baggies of various colors and sizes used specifically to package controlled dangerous substances for distribution, and a bulk package of single edge razor blades for packaging drugs for resale. The total amount of small glassine baggies recovered was capable of packaging 53,000 individual quantities of various drugs. The street value of all sized product was approximately $5,340 with an additional $5,059 in U.S. Currency seized as well. At the scene, evidence revealed that the owner was also committing additional theft and fraud of the food stamp / EBT program, using the EBT system as an ATM with a 100% surcharge. It is estimated that the amount of fraud occurring at the business over the course of a year would amount to around $169,000 in these types of charges with the business / owner keeping over $99,000 for making the transactions from the food stamp / EBT program.
Felony charges related to the possession with intent to distribute, the distribution of synthetic marijuana, possessing CDS paraphernalia with the intent to distribute and maintaining a common nuisance are pending, in both cases, against several store clerks and the ownership. Additional theft and fraud charges are also being pursued against the owner of the Royal Lands store and the United States Department of Agriculture, Food Nutrition Service Investigative Branch is also seeking to permanently suspend benefit program privileges for the business.
The Harford County Task Force continues to receive tips and complaints about gas stations and convenience stores throughout the county selling spice and also accepting food stamp / EBT benefits for these transactions of illegal controlled dangerous substances. Captain Lee Dunbar, Commander for the Task Force offered, "We remain committed to targeting these businesses in an attempt to remove the availability of such a dangerous product from the young population of Harford County who are continuing to use these items thinking they are safe. The Harford County Task Force utilizes all the resources it can to protect the citizens of this county and would like to thank the United States Department of Agriculture for their assistance with these cases and future investigations".
The Harford County Task Force is a highly trained, self-governing, multi-jurisdictional entity with a mission to investigate offenses in the areas of mid to upper level drug trafficking, homeland security, and vice while supporting and facilitating cooperation and coordination among federal, state, and local law enforcement. The Harford County Task Force is comprised of the Harford County Sheriff's Office, Maryland State Police, Aberdeen Police Department, Bel Air Police Department, Havre de Grace Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Harford County States Attorney's Office, working together to make Harford County a safer place to live.