STATE – Last week, the state Division of Consumer made an unannounced return visit to 11 boardwalk novelty shops that had been selling suspected, illegal designer drugs in violation of state and federal laws – and found one shopkeeper continuing to sell the suspected chemicals, despite the stern warning he received in August.
The undercover investigation, conducted in partnership with Seaside Park and Seaside Heights police, is part of the Division of Consumer Affairs’ continuing effort to remove designer drugs such as “K2,” “Spice,” and so-called “bath salts” from retail establishments that sell them illegally.
The investigation led to the arrest of a shopkeeper who, just three weeks earlier, had voluntarily surrendered his stash of suspected designer drugs in order to avoid criminal charges.
On Friday, Sept. 2, shop owner Alaa Yousef Hussein allegedly sold four packets of suspected designer drugs labeled as “Down2Earth Climaxxx” and “Spark 4D Happy Caps” on two separate occasions during the same day, to undercover investigators who re-visited Music Sound, his shop at North Ocean Avenue, Seaside Park. On both occasions Friday, Hussein allegedly told the investigators the contents would give them a marijuana-like high.
Seaside Park Police arrested Hussein, 39, of Edison, at approximately 4:48 p.m.
Upon making the arrest, Seaside Park Police seized 48 packets of suspected designer drugs, with an estimated value of $1,200. Hussein is charged with distribution of an imitation controlled dangerous substance, a third-degree crime carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, and sale of a toxic chemical, a fourth-degree crime carrying a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. He was held in the Ocean County Jail on $15,000 bail with no 10 percent option, and was released on Saturday, Sept. 3.
“Certain disreputable retailers obviously have no qualms about selling chemicals that are illegal, toxic, and associated with disturbing acts of violence and alarming physical side effects. They would rather listen to drug distributors who tell them this garbage can be sold legally, than the law enforcement officials who explain otherwise,” Thomas R. Calcagni, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said.
“Undercover officers will return to these shops, as necessary, to ensure the message gets through. Designer drugs, from ‘K2’ and ‘bath salts’ to any substance sold for the intoxicating effect of its fumes, are illegal in New Jersey. If you are a shop owner and want to avoid criminal prosecution, get these drugs off your shelves.”
The investigation was conducted as a follow-up to Consumer Affairs’ Aug. 12 visit to the Boardwalk in partnership with Seaside Heights and Seaside Park police. On that date, Hussein was one of 10 shopkeepers who voluntarily surrendered a total of 733 packets of suspected designer drugs, with an estimated value of $18,325, rather than face criminal charges.
Usage of “bath salts” designer drugs and synthetic cannabinoids is known to cause intense hallucinations, anxiety, paranoid behavior, seizures, tremors, racing heartbeats, elevated blood pressure, among other disturbing symptoms. Reports from authorities and emergency rooms across New Jersey and nationwide chronicle the frightening experiences with patients high on these drugs, some of whom became completely detached from reality, engaged in acts of self-mutilation and suicide, and turned so violent that they needed to be strapped down in four-point restraints, intubated, and forcefully sedated.
The class of designer drugs commonly labeled as “bath salts” have been illegal in New Jersey since April 27, under an order of the Division of Consumer Affairs that classifies them as Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substances, subject to the same level of control as cocaine or heroin.
Since the launch of its crackdown on designer drugs, the Division of Consumer Affairs has partnered with law enforcement agencies on the seizure or voluntary surrender of a total of more than 2,900 packets of suspected designer drugs, with an estimated total value of approximately $75,000, and the arrests of six individuals who allegedly sold the chemicals.
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