3 Port Lavaca convenience stores raided; synthetic marijuana, bath salts, cash seized
Jan. 10, 2012 at 5 p.m.
Updated Jan. 9, 2012 at 7:10 p.m.
Three stores in Port Lavaca were closed Tuesday after two men and a woman were arrested in a drug bust, Calhoun County Sheriff B.B. Browning said.
The raid started at about 8:30 a.m. when law enforcement officers arrived at the Times Market, 312 Travis St., with search and arrest warrants.
The bust continued at the Times Market, 630 N. Virginia St., and the Get and Go, 1717 Half League St.
About 200 vials of bath salts and 200 shots of Kush, synthetic marijuana that sells for $40 a shot, along with more than $40,000 in cash were confiscated.
The sheriff's deputies had worked with the Port Lavaca Police Department on the case for nearly a year, Browning said. The investigation involved undercover work, as well as assistance by Constable Billy Billings, representatives from the Attorney General's office and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
The three stores were taped off and closed after the arrests, and will remain closed for now, Browning said.
The proprietors of the Times Markets were arrested. Both are Port Lavaca residents. The third person arrested was a man working as a cashier at the Get and Go, Browning said.
The names of those arrested were not released because the investigation is ongoing and more arrests are possible in the future and investigators are still seizing bank accounts.
Kush is synthetic marijuana, and is smoked. Bath salts are used as drugs when they are inhaled or injected.
"That stuff is worse than cocaine," Browning said of the bath salts. "It'll really mess you up."
The state Legislature made it easier to prosecute the use and distribution of these types of drugs in a law that went into effect Sept. 1, Calhoun County District Attorney Dan Heard said.
"The Legislature did this because there's been a lot of alarm around the state and the country about injuries and a lot of bad things that have happened with the use of these drugs," Heard said.
The charges for possession of bath salts and Kush with intent to distribute, depending on the amount of drugs, can go up to a first degree felony.
The punishment for conviction ranges from five to 99 years or life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, Heard said.
The charges are more serious for distributing drugs near a school or park because these are known as "drug free zones," Heard noted.
The penalties could be more severe depending on how close the stores are to the zones and the amount of drugs found, Heard said.
The penalties for selling these drugs may be more severe because the Get and Go is located across the street from Tilley Park and down the street from Calhoun High School and Travis Middle School. The Times Market on Virginia Street is located in front of HJM Elementary School, Browning said.
Calhoun school district officials were told of the police activity, Browning said.
Jim Story, personnel director for the school district, said the campuses were warned before the bust began.
"We feel very good about it, and we support it very much. It makes us feel a lot better," Story said.
Pam Weathersby, the principal of HJM Elementary School, said she was notified that something would be happening at the store today.
"If it's illegal, we don't want it near us, and I'm glad they're taking care of that," Weathersby said.