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January 22, 2015

Judge Bars DM Convenience Store Owners from Selling Synthetic Drugs, Orders $50,000 Penalty

Settlement resolves consumer protection lawsuit over synthetic drug sales

(DES MOINES, Iowa) A Polk County judge has ordered a Des Moines convenience store and the couple who own it to pay the state $50,000 and barred them from selling synthetic substances, in a settlement that resolves a synthetic drug sales lawsuit filed last year by Attorney General Tom Miller.

Polk County District Court Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger, through a consent judgment, issued a permanent injunction Wednesday against Shop N Save, located at 4685 NW 2nd Street, its owners, Sarbpreet M. Singh and Sandeep C. Kaur, both of Waukee, and their corporation, 3s Venture LLC.

“This is the result we had hoped for,” Attorney General Tom Miller said.  “We took these poisonous products off this store’s shelves, they won’t ever return, and the hefty penalty sends a strong message about selling synthetic drugs.”

Settlement Resolves Consumer Protection Lawsuit over Synthetic Drug Sales
In a first of its kind consumer protection lawsuit in Iowa filed last April, Miller alleged the defendants violated the Iowa Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act, and the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act over the sales of synthetic drugs.  The lawsuit alleged that the synthetic drug sales attempted to evade laws that ban the substances.

In the lawsuit, Miller alleged that in 2012 an undercover Des Moines narcotics officer purchased a package of a synthetic substance labeled as “7H,” which was labeled as an “aromatic potpourri,” from the Shop N Save.  The lawsuit further alleged that at the time of the purchase, the store clerk provided the officer with a glass smoking pipe for purposes of inhaling the package’s contents.

Miller also alleged that test results from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Criminalistics Laboratory showed the package contained plant material coated with synthetic cannabinoids, which are structurally related to tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

Through a consent search of the business, police obtained nearly 1,000 packages of synthetic substances labeled with such names as “Caution,” “Kush,” “OMG,” “7H,” “Scooby Snax,” and “Stardust, ” which the Consumer Protection Division impounded.

The products, which were marketed as potpourri or incense, “bath salts,” “plant food,” and even “metal polish,” bear statements such as “natural,” “not FDA approved,” and “not fit for human consumption.”  Despite the labels, Miller alleged, the substances were marketed and sold to consumers for the specific purpose of being used as a drug.

Under terms of the consent judgment, the state will retain and destroy the seized products.

“This case began with hard work by the Des Moines Police Department, follow-up work by our Consumer Protection Division, the Iowa DCI lab and the Iowa Poison Control Center, and consultations with the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy,” Miller said.  “It was a real team effort with a great outcome.”

“Communities across Iowa have asked us to try another approach in going after those who try to skirt laws forbidding synthetic drug sales, and this was our first case using a consumer protection approach,” Miller added, noting that the defendants have also faced other legal trouble, including criminal charges filed against store employees, a $200,000 civil forfeiture by the Polk County Attorney, and the one-year suspension of Shop N Save’s liquor license by the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division.

“We sincerely hope that holding these sellers accountable will send a strong message to other retailers who think it’s worth the risk to sell synthetic drugs here in Iowa.”


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