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20 arrested in Michiana synthetic marijuana raids

Raids on several Elkhart and St. Joseph county convenience stores suspected of selling synthetic marijuana on Monday, June 9, were the start of a larger crackdown.

Posted on June 10, 2014 at 10:54 a.m. | Updated on June 10, 2014 at 12:17 p.m.

 

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect map of the locations raided by authorities for selling synthetic drugs. The map has been corrected as of 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, June 10. The story also listed the wrong number of Elkhart Police Department officers and amount of cash seized. The Elkhart Truth regrets the errors.

Twenty people were arrested Monday, June 9, as at least a dozen locations in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties were raided for selling synthetic drugs.

Closed gas stations
  • Phillips 66 and Burger Dairy, 1403 Franklin St., Elkhart
  • Marathon, 1589 W. Franklin St., Elkhart
  • Sunnyside Food Mart, 1502 S. Benham Ave., Elkhart
  • Marathon, 1850 E. Bristol St., Elkhart
  • Energy Oil Station, 1245 S. Main St., Elkhart
  • The Handy Spot, 1226 S. Main St., Elkhart

Raids on several Elkhart and St. Joseph county convenience stores suspected of selling synthetic marijuana on Monday, June 9, were the start of a larger crackdown on the drug, said Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill during a press conference Tuesday.

Hill said 87 personnel from the Indiana State Police, Goshen Police Department, Elkhart Police Department, Homeland Security and Indiana Excise executed 13 investigations Monday, arresting 11 people in Elkhart County suspected of buying and selling synthetic drugs.

Forty-five of the Elkhart County personnel were from the Elkhart Police Department, he said.

Police seized 10 bank accounts, two vehicles, $57,000, at least two weapons, and 1,400 packets of the drug during the Elkhart raids, Hill said.

The businesses raided were seized and sealed by The State of Indiana pending a further court order. 

Police in St. Joseph County raided six businesses and one private home and arrested nine people, said St. Joseph County Prosecutor Mike Dvorak.

Two Granger residents, Gurcharn “John” Singh, 43, and Jaswinder “Jasmine” Kaur, 37, were specifically targeted in the investigation and arrested. Singh and Kaur own four of the raided locations in Elkhart County. 

None of the 11 people arrested in Elkhart County have any prior criminal history in Indiana, according to court files.

Undercover officers or cooperating community members purchased synthetic drugs or synthetic look alike substances from clerks at Burger Dairy Store at 1403 W. Franklin St. least 13 times. At the Marathon gas station at 1589 W. Franklin Street, officers and community members cooperating with police purchased synthetic drugs on at least 15 occasions.

At least seven purchases of synthetic drugs or synthetic look alike substances were made at the Sunnyside Food Mart at 1502 Benham Ave. Several purchases were also made at a Marathon Station at 1850 E. Bristol St. 

Officers looking into the bank accounts used by the two gas stations on Franklin Avenue, Sunnyside Food Mart and the gas station on Bristol Street found “significant co-mingling” of funds between the business accounts and Singh’s personal account, Hill said in a statement.

The St. Joseph County raids resulted in the seizure of $42,000 and marijuana and prescription drugs worth more than $1,000, Dvorak said.

He said St. Joseph County law enforcement officers worked past midnight to catalog evidence. Charges against the nine people arrested will be filed in the next 48 hours.

Hill declined to say whether the drugs were sold out in the open or had to be asked for.

"People who wanted to get it knew how to get it,“ Hill said.

Suspects Arrested

Gurcharn “John” Singh, 43, Granger

Jaswiner “Jasmine” Kaur, 37, Granger

Peter Rose Fernandes, 48, Elkhart

Maranda Marie Haynes, 41, Elkhart

Muhammad Mobeen Khan, 28, Elkhart

Amandeep Singh, 21, Elkhart

Gurpreet Singh, 22, Elkhart

Gurpreet Singh, 36, Elkhart

Sarabjit Singh Gujjar, 23, Elkhart

Sukhjinder Singh, 22, Elkhart

Melissa L. St. George, 37, Elkhart

Hill said the investigation began in July 2013 and will likely continue for several more months. Several other stores are under investigation but were not raided yesterday, he said.

Dealing in synthetic marijuana or a look alike substance is a class A misdemeanor in Indiana under Indiana Code 35-48-4-10.

State legislators in 2013 approved a law that would ban not only known chemical formulations of synthetic marijuana, but also any ”look alike substance“ made to look like or produce the same effects at the previously banned compounds.

Before this ban, manufacturers would change the chemical composition of synthetic marijuana each time one formula was banned.

Officers from the Elkhart Police Department and Indiana State Police conducted raids at six unspecified locations throughout Elkhart County Monday afternoon, June 9, said Heather Norman, spokeswoman for the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office.

Mishawaka police confirmed Tuesday that the Elkhart raids were connected to six St. Joseph County raids on convenience stores suspected of selling synthetic marijuana.

Reporters Sharon Hernandez and Krystal Vivian contributed to this report.

 

Elkhart County Prosecutor's office press release about Elkhart County investigation on synthetic drugs by Krystal Vivian


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