MIDDLESEX COUNTY — Six individuals have been arrested in a series of narcotics raids that also led to the seizure of more than $163,000 in synthetic marijuana and a chemical powder known as “bath salts,” which were being sold illegally at three smoke shops and a gas station convenience store in Middlesex County, Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan announced today.
Members of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Gangs, Guns and Drugs Task Force, with assistance of police in New Brunswick, East Brunswick and Sayreville, also confiscated $25,145 in cash earned from the alleged illegal sales, and took digital scales, pipes and other alleged drug paraphernalia as part of a massive crackdown on the sale of the synthetic drugs, authorities said.
“Since these synthetic drugs were banned, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has aggressively worked to keep them off of store shelves,” Kaplan said. “It is important for people to know that the sale and possession of these products is illegal, and the use of these products is dangerous.”
“This successful initiative shows just how aggressively the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Task Force is working to halt the sale, distribution, and use of bath salts and other dangerous designer drugs,” Thomas R. Calcagni, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said.
“As we know from reports throughout the state and nation, use of these drugs is associated with gruesome outbursts of violence, self-mutilation, and suicide. Retailers are now on notice that the sale of these toxic chemicals will not be tolerated in New Jersey.”
Six designer drug chemicals commonly labeled as “bath salts,” a chemical powder that mimics methamphetamines and cocaine, were banned by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs on April 27, and subsequently outlawed under a bill signed into law on Aug. 22.
Five synthetic marijuana chemicals were banned by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in March, and their ban took effect in New Jersey law in April, under the authority of the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Calcagni said the products were banned due to their association with extreme anxiety, extreme paranoia, delusional thinking, and visual and auditory hallucinations, violent outbursts, self-mutilation, and suicidal thoughts, and physical symptoms including increased blood pressure and heart rate, severe chest pains, and jerky muscle movements.
The consumer affairs director also said emergency rooms have reported to the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System that some patients who used the so-called bath salts drugs were so aggressive they had to be sedated, intubated, and placed on respirators before they could be treated.
Following a four-month investigation into alleged illegal sales, the series of raids began on Aug. 2, at a Shell gas station at 1010 Route 18 in East Brunswick, where owner Jarnail Sandhu, 25, of Sayreville, was arrested and charged. Bail was set at $100,000, with no option to post 10 percent of the amount.
Also arrested and charged was Sandhu’s mother, Charanjit K. Sandhu, 56, of Nanuet, N.Y. She was released on her own recognizance. Both defendants were charged with distribution of bath salts and synthetic marijuana; possession of bath salts and synthetic marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Police also raided three smoke shops in New Brunswick on Sept. 8, and confiscated drug paraphernalia and quantities of synthetic marijuana and bath salts, authorities said.
At the Amsterdam Smoke Shop at Easton Avenue in New Brunswick, police arrested the store owner, Ayman S. Al-Nsairat, 40, of East Brunswick, and Maria M. Almanzar, 20, of Union City. Also arrested and charged was Lukasz M. Poplawski, 21, of Staten Island, N.Y.
All three were released on their own recognizance after they were charged with possession of toxic chemicals and possession of drug paraphernalia. Almanzar and Poplawski also were charged with distribution of toxic chemicals.
Also on Sept. 8, police conducted a raid at the Jamaican Smoke Shop at Easton Avenue in New Brunswick. Some illegal substances and drug paraphernalia were seized, authorities said, but no arrests were made.
In addition, police raided the shop next door, identified as the Jamaican Discount Smoke Shop, and arrested Ranmanjeet K. Dhillon, 24, of Woodbridge. She was released on her own recognizance after being charged with possession and distribution of toxic chemicals and possession of drug paraphernalia.
During the investigations, police seized 6,547 bags, jars and vials containing synthetic marijuana and bath salts, authorities said. The products were marked for sale at prices ranging from $20 to $30 each.
In addition, police seized 2,914 pipes, bongs and hookahs, 193 digital scales, 357 canisters containing nitrous oxide, 13 imitation handguns used to fire blanks, and 46 containers designed to conceal illicit drugs, according to authorities.
Police also seized packaging material, grinders, cigars and rolling papers, all identified as products used to prepare and help sell the illicit drugs, authorities said.
The investigation remains active and is continuing, according to the prosecutor’s office