VERO BEACH, Fla. — After state laws went into place four months ago prohibiting the sale of Spice and other forms of synthetic marijuana, the owner of a convenience store told law enforcement and many customers that he was no longer selling the controversial product.
But Tuesday, Jimmy's GK Discount Beverage owner Kiritbathi M. Patel, 61, became the first person in Indian River County charged with sale and possession of a controlled substance specific to Spice under the new state law. The Multi-Agency Crime Enforcement unit took Patel into custody about 4:40 p.m. Tuesday after it executed a search warrant of the store in the 1800 block of 14th Avenue, Vero Beach.
"We did a big sweep (in late May), and he told us he didn't have any," Detective Bill Staar said. "In the last month, we kept getting tips that he was still selling. These guys are selling drugs to our kids."
Those tips came despite a couple of signs posted at the register that read "We No Longer Carry Spice. Sorry and Thank You For Your Patronage."
"Obviously, he didn't get rid of it," Staar said.
Undercover detectives made two Spice purchases from Patel, including one earlier Tuesday, MACE member Chris Rodriguez said. Tuesday's purchase was caught on the store's video surveillance, which was recovered as part of the search warrant.
"He was keeping the Spice behind the counter and selling it only to people he had sold it to before the new law went into place," Rodriguez said.
Law enforcement officials recovered 72 packs of Spice, $61,000 cash and a couple of firearms in the search, Staar said.
In late May, Indian River County Sheriff's deputies went to 42 stores in the county and found more than $10,000 worth of bath salts and Spice. The state outlawed both substances in March, following an emergency temporary ban last year. No charges were filed against any of the store owners or clerks for that sweep because the Sheriff's Office said the intent of the sweep was to bring the stores into compliance with the new law.
The packets sold at the store were in a variety of names, including "Scooby Snax," which featured an image of the Hanna-Barbera dog. The packets sell for up to $15.
"Supposedly you get five hits out of one of these packages," Staar said.