The people who worked at the Fulton store that sold synthetic marijuana and bath salts could spend decades in prison.
This week’s raids on head shops across Upstate New York, as part of a national operation called Operation Log Jam, resulted in very few arrests, so far.
Federal, state and local police executed search warrants on dozens of locations, including the 420 Emporium on Broadway in Fulton.
Oswego County Today photographed a woman in handcuffs outside the Fulton store. It’s not known whether the woman was arrested or merely detained. The office of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York, which covers Fulton, has refused to discuss the raids.
Three store clerks at other 420 Emporium locations in Batavia and Brockport were arrested during the raids. United States Attorney for the Western District of New York, William Hochul, told reporters at a news conference in Batavia that the three clerks have been charged with selling a controlled drug or its analog that leads to bodily harm.
Hochul said that the crime carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
“The judge has no choice,” said Hochul. “You have to go to jail for at least 20 years and up to life imprisonment. As we’ve indicated in court we believe that there is a possibility of that kind of sentence in this kind of case.”
Crimes prosecuted in federal courts are different from those handled by state or local courts in that federal judges have very little leeway to change sentences.
However, the clerks could catch a break through reduced charges if they are willing to help prosecutors go after bigger targets. “These clerks would be considered retail, no doubt about it, but if we could go upstream, as in any case, I believe we would very much want to do that,” said Hochul.
Still, the initial arrests of clerks in Batavia signals a willingness to charge low-level clerks with a very serious crime.
The application for the warrant to search the 420 Emporium in Fulton contained an allegation from an undercover officer that a clerk in the Fulton store helped him understand how to take one of the synthetic drugs. The conversation is a key point in proving the government’s allegation that even store clerks knew that the synthetic drugs, which were labeled “not for human consumption”, were drugs designed to be taken.
Investigators searched the suburban Rochester home and warehouse of the man who owns the 420 Emporium chain. He was not arrested.
“We fully expect there will be further arrests,” said State Police Maj. Christopher Cummings at the Batavia news conference.