October 21, 2014

Medina
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Drug task force: Fake pot held in warehouse

The owners of a Brunswick head shop had been storing synthetic marijuana in a warehouse in Liverpool Township, drug enforcement agents said Thursday.

Sean and Sherry Lightner, both 38, of Grafton Township, were indicted Dec. 12 on federal charges for allegedly purchasing and selling thousands of dollars of illegal synthetic marijuana at their Twilight Boutique stores around Northeast Ohio, including one in Brunswick. The pair was indicted following a months-long investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, local drug enforcement bureaus, and a number of area law enforcement agencies.

On Thursday, Director Gary Hubbard of the Medina County Drug Task Force said his agency worked with the DEA to seize 17,000 packages of synthetic marijuana on June 26 from a warehouse owned by the Lightners in Liverpool Township. He said the packets were kept with other inventory like smoking pipes.

The packets, marketed by the Lightners as potpourri and labeled “not fit for human consumption,” contained what drug agents say is synthetic marijuana. He said the seizure at the warehouse, coupled with search warrants executed at the stores owned by Lightner and their home, helped build a case for the indictments handed down last week.

“We executed the search warrant and it was a good find,” Hubbard said. “17,000 packages of this is equal to 42,000 grams, so it was a good seizure.”

According to the Dec. 12 indictment, the Lightners tried to hide the fact they were selling synthetic marijuana by keeping the price list out of view and instructing employees not to sell the drugs and pipes for smoking in the same transaction.

That was done in “an effort to conceal that the synthetic cannabinoids were meant for human consumption and to thwart law enforcement,” the indictment read.

Prosecutors said the Lightners used suppliers identified as Mark Picard of Whittier, Calif., and Nathan Albright of Glendale, Ariz., who face drug and money laundering charges in the case.

After purchasing the synthetic marijuana, the Lightners marked the cost up about 300 percent before selling it to the public, the indictment said.

With their illicit proceeds, the indictment said, the Lightners purchased numerous vehicles, including a 2005 Dodge Magnum, a 2013 Dodge Journey and a 2013 Dodge Ram 350. They also bought a boat and a trailer.

Most of those purchases were made with cash or cashiers’ checks and the indictment said the Lightners bought their Neff Road home in Grafton Township, with $242,834 in cashier’s checks in August 2012.

Prosecutors want the Lightners to forfeit the vehicles, boat and home and more than $225,000 in cash seized as part of the investigation.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.