|NEWARK – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, and Cape May County Prosecutor Robert L. Taylor today announced the filing of criminal charges against six individuals accused of selling synthetic marijuana and one individual accused of selling other toxic substances, at five shops along the Boardwalk in Wildwood, and one shop in nearby Rio Grande, following a joint investigation.
The Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday, July 10, arrested the suspects at the stores in which they allegedly sold the substances. Prosecutor’s office investigators also seized nearly 1,600 packets of suspected synthetic marijuana or other toxic chemicals having an estimated retail value of $160,000, as well as $121,000 in cash, numerous items deemed to be drug paraphernalia, and 11 firearms, at five of the stores in which the suspects were arrested and at one additional Wildwood shop that was searched by law enforcement.
"We will take aggressive action in all instances where people continue to ignore our ban on these dangerous substances," Attorney General Chiesa said. "Before we made New Jersey the fourth state to outlaw all variants of synthetic marijuana, dealers got away with selling these chemicals, which mimic the effects of marijuana but which had not been specifically classified as illegal. That game is now over, and I commend the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office and the Division of Consumer Affairs for their collaborative operation."
The arrests are the result of a joint undercover investigation, conducted in June by the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Enforcement Bureau in partnership with the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office. Each of the suspects allegedly sold packets of synthetic marijuana or other toxic chemicals, with labels including “K2,” “Rehab,” and “Jersey Shore,” to undercover investigators. They allegedly told the investigators that smoking the substances would result in a marijuana-like high.
“Synthetic marijuana is associated with alarming symptoms including seizures, panic attacks and hallucinations, leading some users to commit suicide or suffer fatal injuries,” Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, said. “Having banned these drugs, we are now working closely with law enforcement to stop disreputable retailers from selling them in New Jersey.”
“These dangerous, toxic chemicals represent a clear threat to public health and safety, and their sale will not be tolerated in our county,” Cape May County Prosecutor Taylor said. “We are proud to work with the Office of the Attorney General and Division of Consumer Affairs to identify places where these drugs were sold, and to take swift action to halt their sale and hold the dealers fully accountable to the law.”
Suspected drug packets sold at five of the stores tested positive for one or more variants of synthetic marijuana – none of which were subject to a Federal or State ban until the State Division of Consumer Affairs in February 2012 made New Jersey the fourth state to comprehensively ban all variants of synthetic marijuana. The chemicals are now classified as Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substances, subject to the same level of control as cocaine or heroin. Distribution, sale or possession is a third-degree crime, subject to a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for a three- to five-year term. (See press release: www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/press/02292012.htm)
In the case of substances that did not test positive for synthetic marijuana or other known drugs, under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10.4 it is a fourth-degree offense to sell any substance containing a toxic chemical knowing that the intended use of the product is to cause a condition of intoxication.
Of the defendants listed below, six were charged with Controlled Dangerous Substances violations due to the alleged sale of synthetic marijuana. One was charged for the alleged sale of substances containing toxic chemicals for the intended use of causing intoxication.
The Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday, July 10, made the following arrests and seizures, as a result of the joint operation:
- At Golden Spot, located at 2706 Boardwalk, Wildwood, officers arrested David Maimon, 59, of Staten Island, and Daniel Pepe, 31, of Philadelphia. Both were charged with Distribution of Controlled Dangerous Substances, Possession of CDS, and Distribution and Possession of CDS Within 500 Feet of Public Property. Officers seized approximately 35 items of suspected CDS, more than $13,000 in cash, and numerous items deemed to be drug paraphernalia.
- At Shore Shop, 2808 Boardwalk, Wildwood, officers arrested Ben Morad, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was charged with Distribution of CDS, Possession of CDS, and Distribution and Possession of CDS Within 500 Feet of Public Property. Officers seized two items of suspected CDS and approximately $200 in cash.
- At Fantasy, 3400 Boardwalk, Wildwood, officers arrested Sebastian Claros, 18, of Boca Raton, Florida. He was charged with Distribution of CDS, Possession of CDS, and Distribution and Possession of CDS within 500 Feet of Public Property. No items were seized.
- At Gemini, 3704 Boardwalk, Wildwood, officers arrested Edward Vanaman, 22, of Erma. He was charged with Distribution of CDS, Possession of CDS, and Distribution and Possession of CDS within 500 Feet of Public Property. Officers seized more than $500 in cash, and 27 items deemed to be drug paraphernalia.
- At Seagars, 1613 Route 47, Rio Grande, officers arrested Robert Pancoast, 43, of Cape May Court House. He was charged with Distribution of CDS, and Possession of CDS. Officers seized more than 1,500 items of suspected CDS, more than $2,000 in cash, 11 firearms, and numerous items deemed to be drug paraphernalia.
- At Golden Gate, 3202 Boardwalk, Wildwood, officers arrested Shereif A. Mourkos, 24, of Egypt. He was charged with Distribution of a Toxic Chemical Knowing the Intended Use is to Cause a Condition of Intoxication. Officers seized approximately 15 items of suspected CDS or toxic chemicals, approximately $105,000 in cash, and numerous items deemed to be drug paraphernalia.
- At Genesis, 4104-06 Boardwalk, Wildwood, officers seized approximately 29 items of suspected CDS or toxic chemicals, approximately $700 in cash, and numerous items deemed to be drug paraphernalia. No one has been arrested.
All of the defendants were released on summonses with the exception of Daniel Pepe, who was found to have a Failure to Appear warrant out of Wildwood Crest Municipal Court, and was held on $1,000 bail.
Prosecutor Taylor also noted, “Where appropriate, the Prosecutor’s Office will seek forfeiture of funds seized during the execution of the search warrants.”
Attorney General Chiesa and Prosecutor Taylor thanked the New Jersey State Police Office of Forensic Science for expeditiously testing the substances that were sold to undercover officers, and thanked the New Jersey State Police, New Jersey Division of Taxation, Cape May County Sheriff’s Office, Middle Township Police Department, and Wildwood City Police Department for participating in Tuesday’s arrests.
For much more information on the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs' initiative to stop the use of synthetic marijuana, so-called "bath salts," and other designer drugs, view the Division's website on designer drugs.
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