ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that a business found selling synthetic drugs has been ordered to temporarily close after a judge declared the store a public nuisance.
Bob's Cheap Smokes at 51710 National Road, St. Clairsville, must cease operations until October. The attorney general's office filed a nuisance abatement action against the business in March after a joint investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and Belmont County Sheriff's Office uncovered the sale of synthetic drugs at that location.
"We definitely view this ruling as a victory in the fight against synthetic drugs," said DeWine. "Business owners need to know that if they are found selling these dangerous products, it will hurt their bottom line."
The judge found that those at Bob's Cheap Smokes sold products labeled as "potpourri", which contained illegal synthetic compounds that, when consumed, mimic the psychoactive and physiological effects of marijuana.
A civil lawsuit filled by the attorney general's office is also pending against the business.
In a separate case, the attorney general's office Tuesday filed a civil lawsuit against the owners of Fred's Party Centers Inc., which operates two other Belmont County businesses accused of selling synthetic drugs.
Officers with the Belmont County Drug Task Force purchased the drugs at the Martins Ferry Party Center, 819 South Zane Highway, Martins Ferry, and the Bridgeport Party Center, 895 National Road, Bridgeport, in February, according to authorities.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants engaged in unfair, deceptive, and unconscionable acts by selling illegal drugs as legal products. Attorneys also filed a nuisance abatement action against the business, requesting that the store be closed for one year.
So far this year, the attorney general's office has filed 13 civil lawsuits, including eight nuisance abatement actions, against businesses assisted local law enforcement in serving more than a dozen synthetic drug-related search warrants across the state.
Belmont County Drug Task Force Commander John McFarland said officers continued to follow up on tips and information regarding other sites suspected of selling illegal substances.
"We're stretched thin, but following each and every (tip) we get," he said.
He added that while manufacturers of the illegal substances continue to try and change the ingredients, officers and the task force will persevere in aggressively investigating such crimes until the substances are cleared from Belmont County.
DeFrank can be reached at email@example.com.