Search warrants executed on three local businesses

FEDERAL, state and local agencies executed search warrants Wednesday on three Belmont County businesses suspected of selling synthetic marijuana.

Agents searched the Shadyside Party Center on Central Avenue in Shadyside, The Trading Post on Main Street in Bridgeport, and Bob’s Cheap Smokes on National Road in St. Clairsville.

According to a press release from Belmont County Sheriff David Lucas, a search warrant was also served at the home of the owner of the Bridgeport Trading Post. Lucas said the search warrants were served in relation to the sale of synthetic cannabinoids which are also known as synthetic marijuana or herbal incense.

As of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, agents were at all three businesses and the locations were secure. Sheriff Lucas said one person was taken into custody and the investigation is ongoing.

After the raids, a spokesperson with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office said the three Belmont County businesses were selling synthetic marijuana under various names.

In a statement, DeWine said, “This is not the first time we have warned business owners to stop selling synthetic drugs or face the consequences, yet some store owners continue to knowingly profit off the addictive nature of these substances. Today’s raids just go to show that if you are selling these drugs, law enforcement will find out.”

Officials with the Belmont County Drug Task Force, the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office, Belmont County Prosecutor’s Office, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration are working together on the cases.

DeWine’s office also said, “The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section filed civil lawsuits against those with ties to the businesses, alleging that they engaged in unfair, deceptive and unconscionable acts by selling the illegal drugs as legal products. Nuisance abatements were filed in an effort to close the businesses for one year. Today’s warrants were served as part of an intensified effort by local and stated law enforcement agencies to fight the sale of synthetic drugs.”

Sheriff Lucas said he plans to hold a press conference today to release more information about the raids.