An Action 16 investigation into the fallout from last week’s bust of what police call a synthetic marijuana ring centered in Lackawanna County.
The bust shut down a local chain of smoke shops and authorities now say it could lead to the deportation of several of the men charged with dealing fake pot.
Lackawanna County prosecutors said a tobacco shop and several of the people who work there were a major part of the synthetic pot trade nine months after the state of Pennsylvania made the fake pot and bath salts illegal.
Customers were greeted by a condemned sign and a locked door. The Smokes 2 Go on South Washington Avenue has been shut down since Thursday when authorities raided the shop and said they found 8,248 packets of synthetic marijuana.
While eight stores accused of dealing the fake pot were raided last week, the Lackawanna County prosecutor’s office confirms area Smokes 2 Go outlets were the main targets.
At a duplex on Washington Avenue in Taylor, arrest papers show eight men, six of whom have the last name Patel, were arrested on charges relating to the selling of synthetic marijuana.
All men listed the same address as their home.
All worked at Smokes 2 Go stores either on South Washington or Oak Street in Scranton or in the Smokes 2 Go outlet in Dickson City. All three are closed.
Now, a representative of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service confirms federal agents are looking to see if any or all of the eight Smokes 2 Go workers are in the country illegally.
“First of all, charge them, then after the charges, send them back where they belong,” said Frank Doherty of Pittston.
“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. I think it’s disgusting they would peddle that stuff,” said April Doherty.
When Action 16 investigated the popularity of synthetic marijuana a year and a half ago, it was legal to sell.
A worker at the south Scranton Smokes 2 Go confirmed it was a major seller. K2 and spice were the most popular brand names.
It was so popular back then, a thief targeted the outlet and broke in and stole more than $5,000 worth of the synthetic pot.
According to police sources, it remains popular on the black market because even though it is illegal it is still not detectable in standard drug tests taken by job seekers and people on parole and probation.
All eight Smokes 2 Go workers arrested are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon in Scranton.
We could know at that time, how far federal investigators have proceeded in efforts to deport any who might be in this country illegally.