Store Owners Indicted for Selling Paraphernalia

Store Owners Indicted for Selling Paraphernalia
Posted by CN Staff on January 29, 2004 at 13:49:24 PT
By Josh Swartzlander, DN Staff Writer
Source: Daily Nebraskan 
The U.S. Attorney's Office, working with state and local law enforcement, handed down federal indictments to several Lincoln business owners for the sale of illegal drug paraphernalia earlier this week.According to court documents that were unsealed Wednesday, Christian and Frank Firoz, owners of Super Exotica, 2441 N. 48th St., and Rajinder Kumar and Christopher Pinkelman, owners of Exotic Gift Emporium, 2637 Randolph St., were indicted under federal law.
U.S. Attorney Michael Heavican told reporters in a news conference Wednesday morning that the main difference between this round of indictments related to the sale of drug paraphernalia and others in Nebraska history is that the accused will be facing federal charges, not state charges.Under federal law, the sale of drug paraphernalia is punishable up to three years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine, a much harsher penalty than in the state courts."This is a low-grade misdemeanor in state court," Lancaster County Attorney Gary Lacey said. "It gets their attention when they are facing three years in prison."Heavican said prosecution is just the first step in a nationwide "demand reduction" agenda that President George W. Bush made a priority early in his presidency.It includes a variety of programs designed to reduce the demand for illegal drugs in the United States, including treatment, rehabilitation and other anti-drug programs, Heavican said."This is part of an overall drug strategy," he said.The indictments came weeks after narcotics investigators seized thousands of items from four Lincoln businesses suspected of selling drug paraphernalia, including bongs, pipes, coke and cocaine kits and literature about the use or cultivation of illegal drugs, Lincoln Police Chief Tom Casady said.Casady said he hoped to change the social climate in which shops that sell illegal drug paraphernalia operate, especially when young people are so easily exposed to them."Every time I drive by one of these head shops, I cringe," Casady said. "When you can go to a corner and find two head shops in the same intersection, there's something seriously wrong."Heavican said the difficult part of the cases would be proving the seized items are illegal drug tools used not only for tobacco. The U.S. Attorney's Office plans to use undercover work and examine the surroundings of the shops to prove the items are used for illegal drugs.Christian Firoz questioned how attorneys could prove his product was meant for the use of illegal drugs."It would be illegal if drugs were confiscated with the product," he said. "You cannot pretend there are drugs with the product; pretending is a stretched allegement."Christian Firoz also stressed that narcotics investigators seized all of his inventory, but did not touch the tobacco products, products he said obviously were supposed to be used in the pipes he sells.Though neither Heavican nor Casady would comment on current undercover investigations, Heavican did send a warning to shops selling illegal drug tools. "Anybody involved in the sale of drug paraphernalia better take notice." Complete Title: Local Store Owners Indicted for Selling 'Drug Paraphernalia' Source: Daily Nebraskan (NE) Author: Josh Swartzlander, DN Staff WriterPublished: January 29, 2004 Copyright: 2004 Daily Nebraskan Contact: letters Website: Paraphernalia Archives
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