SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Four people were arrested Tuesday in an effort to enforce Seminole County's ban on synthetic drugs and remove the substances from local businesses.
In addition to the arrests, which were made in Altamonte Springs, Casselberry, Chuluota and Winter Springs, 795 packages of synthetic drugs and more than 500 pieces of drug paraphernalia were confiscated by agents from Seminole County Sheriff's Office City-County Investigative Bureau, according to a release from the SCSO.
The illegal substances are sold under a variety of names, including "bath salts," "K2" and "Spice," and are believed to be marketed as marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and amphetamine substitutes. The stimulants in the synthetic drugs can cause psychotic episodes, hallucinations, seizures, tremors and other reactions in users, though they are often labeled as "all natural," according to the release.
The arrests came as a result of a months-long investigation by the CCIB, where undercover officers visited local tobacco, liquor and convenience stores to obtain samples of suspected synthetic drugs. The suspect substances were then analyzed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's crime lab to test for chemicals prohibited by emergency order or state law. The release showed that three of the samples tested positive for the chemicals.
This past week, the CCIB obtained search warrants for four businesses that were selling the banned synthetic drugs, the release said, and the warrants were executed Tuesday.
Maurice McKnight, 35, was arrested at Casselberry Liquor and charged with possession of synthetic narcotics with intent to sell, possession of bath salts and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, according to the police report. Confiscated from the business were a shotgun, a handgun, 401 packages of K2, drug paraphernalia, and a small amount of cocaine and bath salts.
Derick Pagan-Cordova, 55, was arrested at the CITGO located at 1000 E. Altamonte Springs Drive and charged with possession of synthetic narcotics with intent to sell as well as possession of drug equipment. Drug paraphernalia and 35 packages of K2 were seized from the convenience store.
Nereida Pagan, 46, was arrested at the Tobacco and Beer Outlet in Winter Springs and charged with selling an imitation drug and possession of drug equipment. Agents confiscated 218 packages of K2 and multiple pieces of drug paraphernalia.
At Chuluota Grocery, Maged Youssef, 41, was arrested and charged with possession of synthetic narcotic and possession with intent to sell. There were 141 packages of K2 seized by officers.
The Tobacco and Beer Outlet also sold synthetic drugs that did not test positive for the banned chemicals, which are considered imitation controlled substances. When sold alongside drug paraphernalia, the distribution of these substances is a felony, according to the release.
The SCSO said in the release that it plans to continue visiting local businesses to ensure that they do not sell synthetic drugs, and it plans to work with the State Attorney's Office to prosecute violators of the ban.
Members of the community in possession of synthetic drugs are encouraged by the SCSO to turn in the substances, no questions asked, at drop boxes in front of each local law enforcement agency.