Officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies addressed the nationwide drug raid that stretched into the Mohawk Valley earlier this week, stating it will be part of an ongoing campaign to take down the synthetic drug industry.
“This is the first nationwide coordinated U. S. law enforcement strike specifically targeting designer synthetic drugs,” said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart during Thursday’s press conference at DEA headquarters in Arlington, Va., to address the results of Operation Log Jam, the name of the raid that took place Wednesday.
Officials reported 91 arrests were made as part of the raids that occurred in 109 cities across the U.S. Information on whether any local individuals were among those arrested was not available.
More than 4.8 million packets of synthetic cannabinoids — such as K2 and Spice — and the products to produce nearly 13.6 million more, and 167,000 packets of synthetic cathinones (bath salts) and the products to produce an additional 392,000 were seized. Also, more than $36 million in cash was seized. Numerous weapons and assets were also seized as part of the operation.
“Today, we struck a huge blow to the synthetic drug industry,” said James Chaparro, acting director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Homeland Security Investigations. Chaparro noted the drugs, also known as bath salts, have “grown in popularity as a means to get high.”
Operation Log Jam was conducted by the DEA and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, along with state and local law enforcement.
The drug raids were conducted in several states including New York, Arizona, Florida, New Mexico and Texas. The raid included parts of the Mohawk Valley, specifically Tebb’s Head Shop, at 105 N. Main St. in Herkimer, and another Tebb’s location in Utica.
State police vehicles were spotted outside of Tebb’s Herkimer location Wednesday afternoon while agents conducted the raid. On Thursday, the shop was back in business with a “now open” sign in front of its location. A call to Tebb’s owner John E. Tebbetts III was not returned on Thursday.
“We focused on these communities that have been impacted the most,” said Leonhart. “It’s a domestic problem, but the sources of these chemicals are international.”
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer commented on the raid on Thursday in a released statement.
“This is now law. If local retailers and manufacturers think they can still get away with business as usual, and continue to sell and produce these synthetic poisons, then yesterday’s DEA raids should be a lesson to them,” he said. “I urge the DEA to continue such raids until these horrible and debilitating drugs are no longer sold anywhere in America.”
Page 2 of 2 - Leonhart said part of the drugs popularity is that it is being marketed to teenagers and young adults with “benign and catchy names,” and with the disclaimer that it is not for human consumption. She added these drugs, however, have “unpredictable and sometimes deadly reactions” when they are ingested. “We’ve taken decisive action at every level of this illegal industry,” said Leonhart.
She continued, “We’re sending a clear message that those who profit from the sale of these substances ... we will bring them to justice.”