Suspects in synthetic drug case indicted again

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Feb. 25, 2014 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 25, 2014 at 8:26 p.m.

Fourteen people were re-indicted by a grand jury Thursday - some a third time - for allegedly selling synthetic drugs at several shops throughout Victoria.

The charges stem from a joint raid on the businesses April 9, 2012, by the Victoria Police Department and the Victoria County Sheriff's Office, according to an earlier report.

"They (law enforcement) had tips from citizens, made the purchases and did a lab test," Criminal District Attorney Stephen Tyler said Tuesday.

Defense Attorney Keith Weiser filed a motion to quash one of the defendant's indictments previously after he said the language on it was unclear.

On Tuesday, he was not aware his client had been re-indicted, so he could not say whether the language in the document eased his original concerns.

Tyler said he revised it to make it more clear which individuals were working together.

He said it took more than a year to do so because law enforcement was still investigating and the Department of Public Safety, where he sent the drugs to be tested, had a backlog.

Jamie Balagia, a San Antonio-based attorney, represents eight of the defendants who did business as D&D Novelties, which had two locations at the time of the raid - 1706 Houston Highway and 9501 N. Navarro St. - Cracker Barrel and Smoke-N-Rock. He described this development in the cases as a "grand stand" by law enforcement.

"Funny how the issue comes up again right before another election," he said via email.

Tyler is uncontested for criminal district attorney in both the Republican primary on March 4 and the Nov. 4 general election.

Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor is not up for election because his term has not expired.

Balagia also wondered how the raids affected the safety of citizens.

"Regardless, it seems to be a great waste of taxpayer money to continue to hound these individuals with the threat of prison. The stores no longer sell these items and are now in compliance with the ever-changing laws," he said. "The individuals indicted had paperwork from the distributing companies that assured them that the items were not in violation of the drug statutes."

He said the accused want to put the matter behind them should Tyler be willing to negotiate.

Other defense attorneys Lee Lewis, who represents Patton, Tali Villafranca, who represents the Lakhanis, Chris Iles, who represents McGrath, and Timothy McCoy, who represents Garza, could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

All the charges the defendants face are first-degree felonies, punishable with between five to 99 years in prison with a possible $10,000 fine.

Penalty group 2 substances include various cocktails of hallucinogenic substances made illegal by the 82nd Texas Legislature. Penalty group 2A substances, meanwhile, are those that mimic the pharmacological effect of naturally-occurring cannabinoids, according to acts last amended Sept. 1, 2011.



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