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An investigation into the illegal sale of synthetic marijuana products led to the arrests Wednesday of four people and the seizure of more than $90,000 in illicit drugs and paraphernalia at a Statesboro business.
After lab results confirmed the presence of illegal compounds in packages of faux-marijuana products sold at Cosmic Charley’s, the Statesboro Police Department Crime Suppression Unit and Bulloch County Sheriffs Office Drug Suppression Team executed a search warrant Wednesday afternoon at the South Main St. business.
Officers confiscated about 2,900 packages of outlawed K2 or “spice” products and approximately 1,200 pieces of drug paraphernalia, intended for use with the illegal substances, according to Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner, who announced the finds during a news conference Thursday — also recovered were nine bags of marijuana packaged for distribution, he said.
Police arrested Cosmic Charley’s owner Pamela Lynn Kipf Bodyford, 53, of North College Street, for the sale of a Schedule-I drug, conspiracy to distribute a Schedule-I drug and the sale of drug related objects.
Frances Marie Kipf, 28, of North College, was arrested on charges of possession with intent to distribute a Schedule-I drug and conspiracy to distribute.
Cosmic Charley employees Brian Eric Thompson, 27, of North College, and Joshua Brantley Waters, 23, of Lewis Street in Swainsboro, also were arrested.
Thompson is charged with the illegal sale of a Schedule-I drug and conspiracy to distribute, Waters with possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
“The search warrant was executed as a result of an investigation that began in July 2010,”
Turner said — Georgia lawmakers agreed to ban the products in May 2010. “The crime suppression unit began the investigation in response to information that was received that Cosmic Charley’s was selling synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or spice.”
According to Turner, a series of undercover purchases at the Cosmic Charley’s location led to the search, which resulted in the removal of synthetic cannabis products with an estimated value of $58,000 and drug paraphernalia valued at about $42,000.
Drug related items that were seized include smoking devices, items to conceal the substances and scales to weigh product.
Altogether, more than a dozen types of synthetic marijuana were taken from the location.
“The majority of the chemical compounds that are located in this “spice” are illegal substances. That is what initiated this investigation,” said Turner. “The smoking devices and paraphernalia by themselves are not illegal, but sold with the intent to smoke spice or marijuana does classify them as such.”
“During the course of the investigation, officers were able to determine that they were being sold these items for the purpose of smoking marijuana. [Cosmic Charley’s employees] were pushing these items for that use,” he said.
Other businesses in Statesboro also were investigated as part of the operation, Turner said, and were found to be in compliance with state and federal laws.
The arrests at Cosmic Charley’s come a little more than one year after law enforcement officials met with the business’ employees — as well as employees from other retailers that sold the products when legal — to notify them of the ban on synthetic marijuana and warn them to end all sales of the substances.
Turner said police plan to appear at the next city council meeting — Nov. 15 — and request the business license for Cosmic Charley’s be revoked. He also said the owner of the Cosmic Charley’s property would be notified her property could be subject to federal seizure laws if any illegal activity continues.
The synthetic marijuana products, which had emerged as a popular, legal alternative to marijuana among teenagers and college students, were outlawed last year because of the possible dangerous effects it has on users.
Health experts say the potpourri-like substance can cause individuals to have a rapid heart rate, dangerously high blood pressure and sometimes hallucinations or paranoia when smoked.
A synthetic product was identified as a leading factor in an attack of a woman by her boyfriend in Bulloch County earlier this year.
Amber Fields, 20, of Swainsboro, suffered broken facial bones, a fractured skull, shattered nose and other complications after being beaten by Thomas Jason Browning at a Brannen Street residence. Both parties admitted to ingesting the drug prior to the incident.
“We have been seeing this kind of thing pop-up in our community,” Turner said, referencing the case. “And we have been proactive in targeting suppliers, so we can get this stuff out.”
The four individuals arrested Wednesday were taken to the Bulloch County Jail and are waiting court action.
Samples of confiscated substances will be sent to Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab for analysis.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.