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$400,000 worth of goods taken during raids; police release names

By KBell
April 10, 2012 at 9:02 p.m.
Updated April 9, 2012 at 11:10 p.m.

Law enforcement seized packages of synthetic marijuana they said were on display at five Victoria businesses.

UNEXPECTED HELP

O'Connor said he and Craig wanted to thank businesses across town for donating boxes that were used in gathering evidence.

The amount of merchandise they found was unexpected, prompting them to need more storage.

"Businesses both large and small came to our rescue in providing their boxes," he said.

A container of bleach went for $49.99. A can of iced tea: $29.99.

When screwed apart, the otherwise normal-looking goods revealed hidden compartments ideal for storing whatever its users wouldn't want law enforcement to find.

But they did. These were some of the items confiscated from five Victoria businesses during Monday's raids by the Victoria Police Department and Victoria County Sheriff's Office.

"It's not as much the raid or the magnitude of the raids as it is what we found, and how it was packaged, and to whom it was to be packaged for," Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor said.

O'Connor and Victoria Police Chief JJ Craig on Tuesday revealed an entire storage room dedicated to the items seized from Needful Things, the Cracker Barrel on Sam Houston Drive, Smoke N Rock and two locations of D&D Novelties.

"From floor to ceiling stacked - those boxes were all full. That gives you an indication of just how much product is out there for the public to purchase," Craig said.

Law enforcement said the evidence room contained at least $400,000 worth of merchandise - what they called a conservative estimate.

Everything from scales, to a $2,000 bong, to packages of synthetic urine - complete with a discrete belt and heating patches - were taken. While not illegal in themselves, these items were found alongside synthetic marijuana and cocaine, some of which was stored as mass inventory in warehouses, O'Connor said.

"When you have the type of evidence we had collectively, what we're seeing is that type of paraphernalia is specifically used for" using illegal drugs, Craig said.

Some packages of synthetic marijuana were particularly disturbing because they clearly appealed to a younger crowd, O'Connor said while showing a package with a cartoon dog called "Scooby Snax."

Craig and O'Connor said they hope parents will become more educated about these kinds of drugs and what they look like.

On Tuesday, they also released the names of the seven people arrested in connection with the raids.

Four employees were arrested on suspicion of felony manufacturing or delivery of a controlled substance and possession and delivery of drug paraphernalia.

Arrested were Ramzan Lakhani, 33, and Cheryl Dykes, 50, both at Cracker Barrel; Sheri Patton, 43, at Needful Things; Christopher Salinas, 24, at Smoke N Rock.

Two patrons to the stores were arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. They are Robert Denison, 40, and Samuel Hartsfield, 21, both at Smoke N Rock.

Jeremy Elliott, 20, was arrested at Smoke N Rock on a charge of suspicion of possession of a controlled substance.

All those arrested were from Victoria.

The charges for arrests made at Needful Things may be enhanced because the business is across the street from Shields Elementary School.

O'Connor and Craig declined to comment about any other possible illegal drugs or goods found inside the businesses, citing the pending investigation. They said they will release more information and possibly make more arrests as the investigation continues.

The Attorney General's Office will be investigating possible connections to organized criminal activity.

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