Thats right 15 people were arrested in bust of alleged synthetic drugs operation run from Allentown warehouse.
NORRISTOWN, Montgomery County — The inventory in an old east Allentown warehouse was a drug user’s paradise: rows and rows of colorful glass smoking bongs, boxes holding thousands of grinders and scales, hundreds of rolling papers and about $200,000.
For store owners in the region looking to score chemically enhanced drugs like bath salts and synthetic marijuana, not to mention the goods needed to smoke them, J&L Wholesale Distributors at 1006 Hanover Ave. was the place to go, authorities say.
J&L’s lucrative enterprise, housed in a nondescript building near a day care center and in a school zone, kicked into high gear when synthetic drugs were declared illegal in Pennsylvania a year ago, authorities said.
But that came crashing down Thursday for J&L owner Kenneth Grossman when police rounded up him and 14 others, mostly from the Lehigh Valley. Authorities said they say helped push a relatively cheap high on drug users from the Lehigh Valley to New Jersey.
» The latest on traffic, delays and road construction delivered to your mobile phone. Text TRAFFIC to 52270! Message and data rates apply. Text STOP TRAFFIC to cancel, text HELP for help. Click for terms and conditions.
All were charged with participating in a corrupt organization and profiting from the proceeds of illegal activity, both first-degree felonies, and related drug offenses.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said during a news conference with Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin that the elaborate drug sting, known as “Operation Bowls, Bongs and Beyond,” put a dent in the drug trade in both counties, yielded synthetic marijuana, two tractor-trailers filled with paraphernalia, plus several guns.
Police also seized more than $900,000, including money from the warehouse and several bank accounts, and dozens of common items such as soda cans, sugar containers and clocks that were hollowed out to create secret compartments used to hide drugs.
Grossman, 52, of 820 E. Chew St., Allentown also was part of a partnership that ran Insense Specialties, which supplied the illegal drugs, mainly synthetic marijuana and bath salts, authorities said. The others in the partnership were: Jason Grossman, 24, of 1847 Cloverdale Road, Bethlehem; Rajwant Thind, 30, of 6498 Overlook Road, Orefield; and Malwinder Mangat, 26, of 1016 Hilltop Court, Leesport.
Martin said the arrests show authorities are making good on their pledge last year to crack down on store owners selling the drugs that became illegal in August 2011 and their suppliers.
“Hopefully, they will get the message that we will prosecute,” Martin said.
Known as designer drugs, the substances are made from natural herbs and synthetic chemicals to mirror the effects of drugs like marijuana. But the drugs have been known to cause erratic and violent behavior in those who take them. Police say people high on the synthetic drugs have unusual strength and tolerance to pain.
Ferman said she was particularly disturbed that the drugs were targeted at youngsters, with packaging labeled “Scooby Snax” and with the Batman emblem. She pointed out an incident in June 30 during which a 20-year-old man from Upper Pottsgrove Township, Montgomery County, involved in a vehicle crash told medics that he was hallucinating after smoking a substance called “K-2” and took his hands off the wheel “to see what happened.”
“This is a huge, profitable business and these people are in it for the money,” Ferman said. “This is a community [in Allentown] where children are in the neighborhood. These are toxic, dangerous substances.”
Ferman said J&L became the prime target of the probe involving multiple police departments after investigators realized that items seized in store busts all led back to the warehouse. Among the stores that allegedly distributed the drugs and paraphernalia: Deli Mart, South Whitehall Township; Trexler Plaza Sunoco in Upper Macungie Township; the EZ Shoppe in East Greenville; Main Street Market in Schwenksville; and U.S. Gas in Upper Frederick Township.
Detective Joseph P. Kelly Jr. of Souderton police, who helped head the investigation, said Grossman even took his show on the road to branch out, bringing samples to an October 2011 “head shop” convention in Atlantic City, N.J.,
Police went as far as setting up a fake business in Souderton to order items from J&L, and used multiple informants to pin down all of the players.
Thind, identified in court records as manager of the Trexler Plaza Sunoco at 5917 Tilghman St., Upper Macungie, told police that Kenneth Grossman took a majority of the synthetic drug product orders and that Thind and Mangat filled the orders and sent the products to customers.
The others charged were employees of Grossman’s company or store owners who bought items from J&L and resold them.
They include: Kunal G. Patel, 42, of 377 Indigo Way, Upper Macungie; Jaymin G. Patel, 45, of 457 Wild Mint Lane, Upper Macungie; Dean A. Fenstermaker Jr., 29, of 4272 Windsor Drive, Upper Macungie; Jeffrey Robertson Jr., 25, of 10441 Trexler Road, Upper Macungie; Abdulah F. Soonasra, 64, of 1713 Brookstone Drive, Alburtis; Lisa A. Zupa, 35, of 233 Harvard Avenue, Palmerton; Mohammed F. Rahman, 42, of Lansdale; Ibrahim Fayez Saloum, 41, of Schwenksville; Amy N. Velazquez, 30, of Schwenksville; Yashvant M. Patel, 49, of East Greenville; Yogesh Patel, 44, of East Greenville.
The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting all of the cases.