JEFFERSON PARISH, La. – As part of the ongoing fight against synthetic marijuana, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office announced more than a dozen arrests in relation to the drug Thursday.
The arrests stemmed from undercover investigations at three different businesses on the East Bank of Jefferson Parish.
Undercover agents conducted the sting by buying the synthetic marijuana at the locations.
Authorities seized a total of over $700,000 during the sting and hundreds of grams of materials, along with several vehicles.
The broadest investigation uncovered a multi-state operation based in Jefferson Parish, said authorities. The Rob Shop was cited for distributing synthetic marijuana labeled "POW" from its two businesses in Metairie. Jefferson Parish investigators made 15 undercover purchases there, said authorities.
Authorities believe owners Robert Bentel, Jr. and Robert McPhail were also manufacturing the drug at a house in Milton, Florida, and distributing it in at least five states, including Louisiana, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, and Rhode Island. They believe other states may be involved, and anticipate more arrests may follow.
At The Rob Shop's W. Metairie Avenue location, authorities seized about 300 packages of POW and $6,800 cash. They also confiscated a receipt from UPS showing an attempt to deliver an $800 package. Upon opening the package, authorities found 200 packs of Adarol and 20 packs of Mosquito Caps.
At The Rob Shop's Veterans location, investigators said they seized 26 packs of POW and $16,684 in cash.
Upon searching McPhail's home, investigators said they also uncovered nearly half a million dollars in cash beneath the bed of McPhail's 10 year old son.
In all, authorities arrested six people in connection with The Rob Shop and issued warrants for five more.
Authorities also cited Lil Smoke Shop in Kenner in an unrelated investigation. On July 5, agents seized packets of a product labeled "Burst" and nearly $1,000 cash.
They arrested the store owner, Christopher Quebdeau, and store manager Jessica Schwehm. According to the JPSO, Lil Smoke Shop was selling $400-$600 per day of synthetic marijuana.
On June 28, undercover narcotics agents arrested three people in connection with synthetic marijuana at the Double K Food Store on Airline Drive in Kenner. Ly Pham, Cuc Vu, and Khanh Pham were each booked. Investigators seized 117 packs of a product labeled "Kush," and $7,5000.
The JPSO credited citizen complaints and a partnership with the Jefferson Parish Council with making the raids successful.
A grand jury also returned indictments for Conspiracy, Manufacturing, Distribution and Possession with the Intent to Distribute Narcotics. Thursday in a previous synthetic marijuana raid that took place between December 29, 2010 and March 29, 2012. Those indicted are as follows:
- Jessie F. Acosta Jr. conspiracy/manufacturing
- Harold J. Bourgeois conspiracy/manufacturing (2 counts)/possession with intent to dist(2 counts)
- Christina Facchinetti conspiracy/manufacturing/poss with intent to dist(2 counts)
- Vi T Le conspiracy/manufacturing (2 counts)
- Eric Ledet conspiracy/manufacturing
- Cang V Nguyen conspiracy/manufacturing/possession with intent to distribute
- Chieu Nguyen conspiracy
- Lucy Nguyen conspiracy
- Cuong N. Tran conspiracy/manufacturing(2 counts)/possession with intent to distribute (2 counts)/manufacturing (11 counts)
- My Linh T Tran conspiracy/distribution
- Thanh N. Tran conspiracy/manufacturing(2 count)/possession with intent to distribute(2 counts)/distribution(10 counts)
- Giang T Vo conspiracy/distribution(4 counts)