A.G. Schneiderman Wins 60-Day Jail Term Against Syracuse Headshop Owner
Also Secures Penalties And Fines For Former Owner Of Twisted Headz For Contempt Of Court
Schneiderman: We Will Prosecute Those Who Pollute Our Communities With Dangerous Designer Drugs
SYRACUSE – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has prevailed in a motion to punish Twisted Headz, LLC, and owner Gary Schiffer for civil and criminal contempt of a prior court order. The Attorney General sought penalties and fines against Twisted Headz as well as jail time for Schiffer. Schiffer is charged with creating and marketing a synthetic drug called “Xtreme Rampage.” The drug was prepared and packaged by Schiffer for wholesale and retail sale in violation of a previous court order barring him from selling mislabeled and misbranded synthetic drugs.
The Honorable Judge Anthony J. Paris, J.S.C., assessed civil and criminal contempt penalties, including detention in the Onondaga County Jail for a period of 30 days on the criminal contempt, followed by another 30 days on the civil contempt charge. Judge Paris further ordered a criminal penalty of $9,750, a civil penalty of $250 and payment of $15,892.29, which represents the balance of costs and penalties from the prior civil judgment.
“This is blatantly illegal drug manufacturing and dealing that flies in the face of a previous court order and it will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We have seen the devastation caused by synthetic drug abuse in families and communities across New York State. My office will continue to prosecute those who pollute our communities with dangerous designer drugs.”
As Schiffer detailed to an undercover DEA agent, 1.5 gram packages of “Xtreme Rampage” cost him $0.75 to make and he sold them for $5 each, netting over 600% profit on each packet sold. Agents seized 2,931 packages from a tub in Schiffer’s SUV. Schiffer told the undercover agent that he had hundreds of thousands of packages available.
Schiffer allegedly made the product by spraying marshmallow leaves with a chemical he purchased out-of-state then mixed with acetone. The dried product was marketed in 1.5 gram increments, packaged in small foil envelopes depicting a half-skeletonized face with the words “XTREME RAMPAGE” and “Herbal Sachet.” Schiffer detailed that he could impact the marijuana-like “effects” with the amount of the acetone/chemical mix he sprayed on and that the product had been reviewed “well” by customers. Schiffer’s conduct is a direct violation of law as well as a State Supreme Court Order issued in September.
That order came after Attorney General Schneiderman’s office conducted an undercover investigation into head shops across the state. The investigation revealed that head shop retailers were selling designer drugs, including commonly known synthetics such as “bath salts” and “synthetic marijuana.” Undercover investigators statewide also discovered head shop employees were promoting these dangerous synthetic drugs and advising consumers how to prepare and ingest them.
Under New York State’s Labeling Law, the packaging of consumer commodities must, at a minimum, identify the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor, the common product name, the net quantity of contents, and the net quantity of servings, uses, or applications represented to be present with appropriate directions and warnings for customary use.
On July 10, the Attorney General filed 12 lawsuits against 16 head shop locations, including Twisted Headz. Within 36 hours of filing the lawsuits, the Attorney General’s office obtained Temporary Restraining Orders from all 12 judges effectively removing the mislabeled products from the shelves. Additionally, on August 1, the Attorney General filed a new lawsuit against Tebb’s Head Shops for the sale of bath salts and synthetic drugs in violation of the state’s labeling laws. Attorney General Schneiderman sued John Tebbetts, III of Rome, NY, who owned and operated a chain of eight head shops located throughout Central and Northern New York, for violating the state’s labeling laws by selling designer drugs. Tebbetts has been ordered to pay a $195,750 penalty and costs as well as to post performance bonds of $100,000 per store to continue operation.
Although Federal and State authorities have attempted to outlaw certain chemicals and their analogs, and to remove these items from commerce, their efforts continue to fall short as the chemists and producers providing the products for head shops simply alter formulas and stay ahead of the legislation.
The Attorney General’s lawsuits also pursued retailers for the illegal sale of nitrous oxide to the public, a specific violation of the State Public Health Law. Commonly known as “Whip Its,” nitrous oxide has been linked to several deaths by asphyxiation and other adverse health effects. The gas is typically used by youths who see it as an easy “high.”
With regard to the Attorney General’s action against Twisted Headz, the Supreme Court quickly issued a temporary restraining order, followed on September 20, 2012 by the Honorable Anthony J. Paris signing a Consent Order enjoining Schiffer and Twisted Headz from selling any mislabeled or misbranded products, including synthetic drugs or street drug alternatives which are commonly referred to as “designer drugs.”
In addition to Twisted Headz, judges have issued orders removing all designer drugs from the following retailers sued by Attorney General Schneiderman:
- Shining Star in Albany (Permanent order and judgment banning sales issued November 18)
- Village Sensations in Nanuet (Permanent order and judgment banning sales issued August 14)
- Pavilion International (Permanent order and judgment banning sales issued August 29)
- Trip on the Wild Side II in Watertown (Permanent order and judgment banning sales issued August 22)
- Rolling Fire Glassworks in Endicott (Temporary restraining order in place pending court decision)
- Goodfellas Alternative Smoke Shop in Utica (Store is no longer operating)
- 20 Below/ This and That in Plattsburgh (Permanent court order and judgment banning sales issued October 23)
- Giggles in Poughkeepsie (Permanent order and judgment banning sales issued September 5)
- East Coast Psychedelics in Oceanside and Commack (Temporary order in place, court decision pending)
- Tebb’s Head Shops (eight locations) in Central and Northern NY (Permanent order and judgment banning sales issued January 4, 2013)
- Daze Smoke Shop in Baldwin (Permanent order and judgment banning sales issued July 31)
- Look Ah Hookah in Rochester (Permanent order and judgment banning sales issued July 26)
“This fight is not over,” vowed Attorney General Schneiderman. “We will continue to monitor compliance with the court ordered bans we’ve secured and prosecute violators like Twisted Headz and Gary Schiffer that seek to further profit from the illegal sale of designer drugs.”
Investigative work by federal agents on another matter indicated that weekly deposits for Twisted Headz had been as much as $40,000 per week earlier this year despite the permanent injunction issued September 20, 2012, and that the extra money was due in large part to Schiffer’s continued sale of misbranded drugs.
The original consent order required that Schiffer and Twisted Headz, LLC, provide an accounting of all the products removed from their shelves, to identify the manufacturer or supplier of those products and to certify what products had been returned to manufacturers or destroyed. Schiffer was again ordered to comply with those requirements by July 15, 2013. Schiffer and Twisted Headz were also originally ordered to pay costs and penalties totaling $27,000, only part of which they have so far paid. Under the new order, the remainder plus the newly assessed fines and penalties are also due July 15.
As a result of the original court order, thirty-five types of illegal misbranded drugs were removed from the shelves of Twisted Heads last July.
Schneiderman acknowledged the participationand cooperation of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency and the United State Attorney’s Office, in Syracuse.
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Judith C. Malkin, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Martin J. Mack and Supervising Investigator Christopher R. Holland.