Federal Bust Closes Higher Source Shop

Federal Bust Closes Higher Source Shop
Posted by CN Staff on February 26, 2003 at 15:26:59 PT
By Rebecca Nolan, The Register-Guard
Source: Register-Guard
Federal agents arrested two Eugene glass artists and seized six local properties Monday as part of a nationwide crackdown on sales of drug paraphernalia over the Internet.Jason Robert Harris and Saeed Mohtadi, both 32, were being held in the Lane County Jail. They face federal charges of conspiracy to sell and offering to sell drug paraphernalia such as bongs, pipes and other accessories. Each charge carries a possible three years in prison and $250,000 fine.
Harris and Mohtadi are accused of operating a national distribution company for drug paraphernalia via two Web sites. Both sites offer for sale hand-blown glass pipes by Jerome Baker Designs, a Eugene-based company of which Harris is president.Harris' attorney did not immediately return calls for comment Monday. It was unknown whether Mohtadi had an attorney.Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Drug Enforcement Administration indicted more than 50 people on Monday on charges of trafficking in illegal drug paraphernalia.The charges were the culmination of two nationwide investigations, dubbed Operation Pipe Dreams and Operation Headhunter."With the advent of the Internet, the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has exploded," Ashcroft said in a written statement. "Quite simply, the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge. This illegal billion-dollar industry will no longer be ignored by law enforcement."Federal law defines drug paraphernalia as products intended or designed to be used in ingesting, inhaling or otherwise using controlled substances.Harris and Mohtadi's Web sites call their merchandise "incense burners" but the whimsical and colorful glass creations resemble marijuana water bongs and pipes used to smoke drugs.Also Monday, DEA agents seized five Eugene properties belonging to Harris, including the Higher Source headshop at 133 E. 13th Ave., the shop next door at 135 E. 13th Ave., two buildings housing Jerome Baker Designs at 1868 and 1870 Kintyre St., the Universal Glass company run by Harris and Mohtadi at 55 N. Seneca St., and Harris' home at 1621 Fircrest Drive.Agents spent Monday afternoon emptying Higher Source of merchandise and loading it into a rented moving truck.They left a copy of the federal search warrant posted on the glass door.The warrant indicated agents also seized bank accounts at Centennial Bank and Bank of America. A handmade sign taped to the glass read CLOSED. Many who stopped by the shop Monday grumbled about the bust.Ashcroft, however, trumpeted the dual operations as "decisive steps to dismantle the illegal drug paraphernalia industry by attacking their physical, financial and Internet infrastructures.""People selling drug paraphernalia are in essence no different than drug dealers," the DEA acting Administrator John Brown III said. "They're as much a part of drug trafficking as silencers are a part of criminal homicide."Officials were working to shut down 11 Internet sites, including the two run by Harris and Mohtadi. Harris' legitimate glass artwork has been featured at the Alder Gallery in downtown Coburg, and both men were involved with the Eugene Glass School.Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)Author:  Rebecca Nolan, The Register-GuardPublished: February 25, 2003Copyright: 2003 The Register-GuardContact: rgletters guardnet.comWebsite: Articles: Raids Take WoD's To Higher Level of Absurdity Opens New Front in Decades Old Conflict
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