By CHRISTIN COYNE
A Weatherford tobacco business was closed Wednesday after a routine spot check by area law enforcement led to the arrest of five people associated with the store on felony synthetic marijuana trafficking charges.
Investigators with the Weatherford-Parker County Special Crimes Unit say five employees have been charged and a large amount of what’s believed to be illegal synthetic cannabinoids was seized during the execution of a search warrant this week at Choice Tobacco in the 600 block Palo Pinto Street.
Officers do random checks of area businesses selling tobacco, and an undercover officer doing one Friday at the Choice Tobacco found the store to be selling products believed to be illegal, an SCU investigator said.
The K2 items were reportedly being sold in the open, according to SCU, who said the amount seized was not totaled by Wednesday afternoon but was over 400 grams.
The store was selling Diablo, a brand found during earlier lab testing to contain chemical substances made illegal last year by the state, as well as others types of synthetic cannabinoids, according to SCU investigators. The seized items are expected to be sent for testing, as well.
Mark Thomas Cason Sr., 47, of Crowley, was arrested Monday on a charge of manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance, more than 4 grams, less than 400 grams. He was later charged with manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance, more than 400 grams, as well.
Tuesday, Herbert “Larry” Lawrence Elliott, 64, and Carla Jane Elliott, 50, were arrested on warrants for conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to deliver, more than 400 grams, according to jail records.
Tarrant County records show the Choice Tobacco name registered to Carla Elliott, the agent for CJE Enterprises Inc.
One reviewer on www.yellowpages.com criticized the sale of a smoking product by the Crowley business.
Antonia Rodriguez Jr., 32, of Fort Worth, was also arrested Tuesday on warrants for manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance, more than 1 gram, less than 4 grams, and more than 4 grams, less than 400 grams.
Christopher Ryan Gage, 26, of Burleson, was arrested Wednesday morning on a warrant for manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance, more than 400 grams.
One customer said it appeared the Weatherford business may have changed hands within the past several months.
All the suspects were released on bond by Wednesday afternoon. The Democrat was unable to reach the suspects or anyone at the Choice Tobacco stores in Weatherford or Crowley for comment.
Enforcement attempts during past months appear to have made it more difficult to find K2 in the county as most users are currently reporting obtaining it from Fort Worth, one SCU investigator told the Democrat.
They also report receiving fewer calls from concerned parents.
The arrests and search of the store this week are the second time a Weatherford-area tobacco store has been raided by investigators this year.
The owner of Tobacco N More, Francisco Dinesh Uduwarage Don, and a clerk, were arrested on similar charges after investigators found nearly 900 packages of synthetic marijuana being sold in a special room in the store and later located additional products in a storage unit, for a total of about 30 pounds, according to court records.