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Local businesses targeted in federal investigation

BY REBECCA MORIN | MAY 08, 2014 5:00 AM

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Three local businesses were part of a string of drug raids in a federal investigation.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, along with the Iowa City police, raided Zombies Tobacco Accessories, 316 E. Burlington St.; Happy Daze, 361 E. College St.; and Pipe Dreamz, 355 S. Linn St., Wednesday before noon.

Iowa was one of 29 states in which DEA agents served nearly 200 arrest and search warrants as part of a crackdown on synthetic drug manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers.

Kylie Havel, a Cheba Hut employee, said she came into work around 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday when she saw authorities at Zombie Tobacco Accessories, which is next door.

“I know 100 percent what’s going on; they’re being raided because they’ve been selling K2 Spice under the table and they haven’t gotten caught up until now,” she alleged. “We’ve known it’s been going on for a long time now.”

The raids were part of the second phase of the DEA’s Project Synergy, in which 150 individuals were arrested and more than $20 million seized. The first phase, which started in December 2012, resulted in more than 220 arrests, as well as more than $60 million seized.

Synthetic drugs, which are also known as synthetic marijuana, K2, and spice, are manmade drugs that can be made of chemicals or herbal mixtures that cause mind-altering effects.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 11.3 percent of high-school seniors use synthetic marijuana. It is the second most popular illicit drug used by high-school seniors behind marijuana, which 36.4 percent.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who worked on a Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act in 2012 and serves as co-chairman of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control, said drugs that are outlawed should not be sold in easily accessible establishments such as convenience stores.

“Synthetic drugs are linked to a number of deaths around the country and serious injury such as damage to internal organs,” Grassley said in a statement. “Teenagers who might think a product is safe because it’s sold in the United States are mistaken.  That’s why it’s important to public safety to crack down on illegal synthetic drugs.”

However, Havel said, most of the people hanging around Zombies are homeless.

“When you see the same people lurking around day after day, we kind of know which ones go in there and which ones are smoking spice,” she said. “You can tell they come in here and fall asleep all the time on our tables.”

Another Cheba Hut Employee, Georgia Farley, said she is comforted the raid happened because she believes many associate the sandwich shop with being accepting of illegal activity.

“It’s kind of a relief for me just because we’ve had to deal with so much stuff … I am completely against the things they were selling illegally,” Farley said. “It made us seem like we were affiliated, and that’s totally not what we’re about at all.”

Daily Iowan TV reporter Stefan Juran contributed to this story.


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