CNT busts local “Smoke shops” for selling illegal synthetic drugs to teens

Hitesh Patel, owner of Tobacco Palace on Abercorn st and Montgomery Crossroad is facing one charge of selling a controlled substance Some of the synthetic drugs pulled from Tobacco Palace by CNT CNT also confiscated $18,000 in bust Various forms of CBD oil were confiscated. Some of those tested positive for the illegal drug Tybee Police Captain Tiffany Hayes, CNT Director Everett Ragan, Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap and CNT Resident Agent in Charge Vince Kersey all were on hand [ + ] Asst Deputy Director Gene Harley details what led to arrest and seizure of synthetic cannabanoids Video

Kids doing drugs.. and buying them from stores right here in Savannah.

Now he Savannah-Chatham Counter Narcotics Team has put one store owner behind bars – sending a warning to others that selling to underage kids will not be tolerated.

A boy showing signs of overdose, but not testing positive for drugs. His mother found the bottles and vials he allegedly bought at a Savannah store.

That’s how a five month long investigation started which led to thousands of dollars in product off the shelves, and a store owner in jail.

"The parent came in and she was highly upset, physically and emotionally sick," said Tybee Island Detective Captain Tiffany Hayes. "Her child had been in and out of the hospital suffering from withdrawls. And the test did not come back anything no clues, no suggestions

That’s how the CNT investigation started, with a parent in Tybee.

"We were very lucky that kids were overdosing and parents were concerned enough to question their kids and provide us information on where they were getting it," said Everett Ragan, CNT Director.

"The parents that have contacted me say their kids are buying this stuff and there’s no way to test for it. and the effects are devastating," explains Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap.

Undercover investigators say teens were getting Synthetic Cannabanoid from one of two locations of Tobacco Palace, on Abercorn street or the location on Montgomery Crossroad.

The definition of synthetic cannabanoid is a drug with no currently acceptable medical use and a high potential for abuse.

"We don’t know how much there is of this but there is a quantity of this that is trademarked and packaged the same as the one we bought and most stores came back as Schedule 1," explains Director Ragan. "When you are looking at schedule 1 you are looking at the same thing as heroin, the same thing as MDMA, and ecstacy."

The owner of Tobacco Palace, Hitesh Patel, allegedly passing it to those from under the counter.

"The kids would go into the stores and use a code, ask for Kronic," explains Ragan. "They knew what product they wanted, you talk to teenagers and high school kids on the streets they can tell you more about this than i can i can understand and you can understand. The main thing they care about is something they can smoke, get high and wont show up on a test.’"

Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap says she was alerted after getting calls from parents about the drug being passed around and vaped at public and private schools in the area..

"I was contacted by 4 schools, and Its rampant. Its just so easy to be undetected," explains Heap. "It has no odor, you can pas sit to somebody else, I understand in the bathrooms. I can think of 4-5 schools so far. The parents, but for the fact of the mother searching, she didn’t know what was going on with her kid. Have him drug tested, its coming back negative. Whats going on."

Now CNT has a better sense of what’s going on.. and the best way to stop it… right at the store’s front door.

"Hopefully this will open the eyes of some fo the distributors that this is not an innocent product, its making our kids sick and addicting our kids to drugs and if this does not send a message to them that they should change their operation, then we hope sometime in the near future CNT will change it for them," says a defiant Ragan.

"They (CNT) get big kudos because you go after the owners," says Heap. They have a choice to sell it or not sell it. If they sell it, its a controlled substance, and we are going to hold you accountable so hopefully the other stores will get the message. Stop it."

Hitesh Patel, a co-owner at both stores, turned himself into police Wednesday afternoon.

He is charged with selling a controlled substance. More charges could be pending.

CNT NEWS RELEASE ON OPERATION:

Joint CNT and DEA Operation Leads to Search Warrant of Two Local Savannah Businesses and the Seizure of Dangerous Synthetic Cannabinoids

CHATHAM COUNTY, GEORGIA (January 23, 2019): The Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team (CNT) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are warning the community following a joint operation resulting in a large seizure of various forms of synthetic cannabinoids at two local Savannah businesses.

On Friday, January 18, 2019, CNT and the DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squad executed two search warrants at local Savannah businesses, Tobacco Palace located at 139 East Montgomery Crossroads, and Tobacco Palace located at 13051 Abercorn Street Suite A-6.

The search warrants resulted in the seizure of various forms of synthetic cannabinoids, some of which are believed to contain 4-cyano CUMYL-BUTINACA also known as SGT-78, a schedule I controlled substance in the State of Georgia. Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamie (LSD), and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA/ecstasy). In addition, all similar items found inside the store were seized. A number of the seized items will be sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Lab for testing. The search warrants also resulted in the seizure of more than $18,000 in cash.

As a result of the search warrants, CNT has arrested one of the store’s owners, 42-year-old Hitesh Jayant Patel of Richmond Hill, Georgia. Patel turned himself in today around 2:30 p.m. Patel has been charged with one count Sale of a Controlled Substance (Schedule I) and is being held at the Chatham County Detention Center.

The joint CNT and DEA operation began in July 2018 following information from the Tybee Island Police Department. Tybee Police reported an incident where a

juvenile’s parents alerted authorities that their child overdosed or had a reaction after ingesting Kronic Juice, a synthetic cannabinoid. During that incident, it was reported the juvenile suffered from seizures and manic episodes immediately after ingesting the substance.

The investigation determined the substance was purchased from the Tobacco Palace located at 139 East Montgomery Crossroads in Savannah. As the investigation furthered, agents linked multiple drug-related overdoses to local high school aged students throughout Chatham County. In addition, the investigation suggested a number of high school aged students, under the age of 18, were unlawfully purchasing the items that were advertised similar to cigarette products. The lawful age to purchase those type of products is 18.

Over the course of the five-month investigation, undercover agents with CNT and DEA made multiple purchases of various forms of synthetic cannabinoids from the Tobacco Palace on East Montgomery Crossroads and the one on Abercorn Street. The purchases included but were not limited to Butterfly, Mega Gold CBD, single-use cannabidiol (CBD) vape pens, and vaporizer products Kronic Juice, Diamond, and Blaze, which are used in conjunction with vaping devices. Some of the purchased items have returned positive for schedule I controlled substance. All items purchased had to be asked for by name or code and were located behind the counter and out of view. During the investigation, agents made contact with other Georgia drug enforcement agencies who reported similar operations in their respected jurisdictions.

Said CNT Director Everett Ragan, “CNT prides itself on combating drugs in our community and that is especially the case when it involves the safety of our youth. This case is a prime example of how CNT collaborates with our local and federal partners to combat drug sales that poison our community.”

Said Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap, ““As the district attorney, I find it abhorrent that anyone would sell drugs to our children. These individuals, posing as legitimate businesspeople, have created a lifetime of difficulty for some of the children who purchased their products. I want to recognize the hard work done by CNT to put a stop to the sale of illegal drugs to our children.”

Tybee Island Police Chief Bob Bryson stated, “The Tybee Island Police Department appreciates that CNT takes the time to investigate every complaint that we send to them. CNT does a great job of keeping our community safe.”

Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division commented, “Synthetic cannabinoids, also known as “K2” or “Spice,” are not manufactured in a controlled environment and the user is ultimately playing Russian roulette when consuming this product. There is no way, outside of a controlled laboratory environment, to determine the chemical make-up, synthetic ingredients or what the potential […]

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