The federal government has seized the bank account of a Cedar Rapids business accused of selling synthetic marijuana.
According to federal court documents, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has frozen the bank account of Smoke-N-Pipe, 3221 First Ave. SE, “for the forfeiture of property which represents proceeds from the sale of controlled substances and/or controlled substance analogues.”
The store is accused of selling K2 — a street name for synthetic marijuana — in November, despite a federal raid months earlier targeting Corridor businesses accused of selling the substance.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa has declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. The owner of Smoke-N-Pipe, Amer Ijaz, has filed paperwork seeking to have the business assets — a bank account with $9,500 — returned.
“The currency seized represents proceeds from legitimate business transactions,” states a claim Ijaz filed this week.
According to an affidavit filed this month, drug task force officers began conducting surveillance on Smoke-N-Pipe after receiving reports of possible synthetic drug sales there. While conducting surveillance, investigators noticed a “steady stream” of customers going into the business, staying for a brief period and exiting. The officers then went inside and got in line behind six others — who all were empty-handed — waiting to make purchases, according to the affidavit. Taped to the counter were two empty wrappers labeled “Wet Lucy” and “777” — two common brand names for K2, according to police — and a handwritten sign listing the prices of those items, according to court documents.
Police said each person ahead of them was buying Wet Lucy or 777. The customers paid in cash and all sales went through the same register, according to the affidavit. When the officers got to the register, they identified themselves and informed those in line behind them that the store no longer would sell synthetic marijuana. After speaking with the employee behind the register — who said she had been hired only two days earlier — officers spoke with the store manager, Amir Sial.
According to the affidavit, Sial — uncle of Amer Ijaz — told the officers he thought the items being sold were legal, and he had a report from the supplier that stated they were not banned. That document could not be found at the business, however. The officers were shown more packages of K2 as well as sales records, according to the affidavit. The records showed the store had sold $1,000 worth of K2 by 10 that morning and $37,000 worth of K2 from Nov. 1-19. Tax was collected on all sales.
Investigators seized about 1,100 packages of synthetic marijuana from the store, according to the affidavit.
Sial also told investigators that he was aware of a similar seizure at another local store. Sial told officers he knew the products “were considered contraband and ... the product in the store was the ‘final supply’ and once that was gone, he and the owner planned to no longer sell ‘potpourri,’” according to the affidavit.Assistant U.S. Attorney Pete Deegan said he could not comment on whether Sial or Ijaz face criminal charges or whether a similar action has been taken against any other businesses suspected of selling K2.