Synthetic pot bust was no secret to suspects in Elkhart County, prosecutor says
ELKHART — Several of those arrested on June 9 in the synthetic pot raids at Elkhart and South Bend convenience stores were clerks who allegedly made the transactions of fake pot, widely known as K2 and Mr. Smiley.
Unlike circumstances in South Bend, though, clerks in Elkhart who were arrested are facing more serious charges and larger bonds.
While some store employees in South Bend face dealing charges, those in Elkhart were slapped with a money laundering charge in addition to drug charges. Their bonds also were set significantly higher at $50,000.
Bonds for two Elkhart County store owners were initially set at $500,000 but a judge later modified them to $5 million each.
That’s higher than bonds for other serious crimes, but Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill made it clear that the clerks were not innocent bystanders by any means.
That’s because all of the stores were previously warned, Hills said.
Prior to the investigation, each of the raided stores had been part of voluntary inspections. During those searches, police found evidence suggesting the stores had been involved in the sale of synthetic marijuana packets.
No action was taken at the time of the inspections, but the materials were confiscated and warnings were issued.
“There’s no ignorance on the part of anybody in this situation,” Hill said. “From the clerk’s standpoint, they had an opportunity to tell people, ‘No I’m not going to sell this stuff.’ ”
Twenty people, including 11 connected to six Elkhart stores, were arrested in the coordinated raids.
All of the Elkhart stores remain closed.