The owner of an Allentown distribution business and the operators of five gas stations and convenience stores in Montgomery and Lehigh counties are among 15 people who have been arrested in connection with an organization that allegedly distributed "bath salts" and other synthetic drugs throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, authorities said Thursday.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman said the arrests were the culmination of a year-long investigation involving the Lehigh County District Attorney's office and a number of municipal police forces in both counties.
Ferman described Kenneth Zak Grossman, 52, of Allentown, the owner of J & L Wholesale Distributors, as the "head" of the organization, which authorities said supplied retail outlets with "bath salts," synthetic marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids, and associated drug paraphernalia after those substances became illegal to sell or possess in Pennsylvania in August 2011.
Ferman said the investigation that led to J & L Wholesale Distributors involved the creation of an artificial "front" business in Souderton from which undercover detectives visited J & L on multiple occasions over a period of several months in order to negotiate the wholesale purchase of banned substances.
During a July 25 raid, Ferman said, authorities seized "two tractor-trailers" of contraband in addition to more than $900,000 in suspected proceeds, which Ferman said represented just two days' production of the organization's activity.
"That tells me this is a big business," Ferman said.
In addition to the drugs themselves, J & L allegedly sold various items intended to conceal drugs from casual observation, such as wall clocks with hidden compartments and containers made to resemble cans of common household goods, such as artificial coffee creamer and WD-40 brand lubricant.
Ferman was particularly critical of the packaging of many of the narcotics, which employed the use of logos and names that she said were intended to attract younger buyers. She displayed two packets of alleged narcotics, one labeled "Scooby Snacks" and another decorated with "Batman" logos.
"These are designed to appeal to young people," Ferman said. "We are trying to get the message out there that these substances are not safe."
In addition to Grossman, the following people have been charged in connection with the alleged organization:
- Jason Grossman, 24, Bethlehem, PA
- Mangat Malwinder, 26, Leesport, PA
- Rajwant Singh Thind, 30, Orefield, PA
- Mohammad F. Rahman, 42, Lansdale, PA
- Ibrahim Fayez Saloum, 31, Schwenksville, PA
- Amy Nichole Velasquez, 30, Schwenksville, PA
- Kunal G. Patel, 42, Upper Macungie, PA
- Jaymin G. Patel, 45, Upper Macungie, PA
- Yashvant M. Patel, 49, East Greenville, PA
- Yogesh Patel, 45, East Greenville, PA
- Lisa Zupa, 35, Palmerton, PA
- Jeffrey Robertson, Jr., 25, Breingsville, PA
- Dean A. Fenstermaker, Jr., 29, Allentown, PA
- Abdulah F. Soonasra, 64, Alburtis, PA
Among the convenience stores that authorities allege distributed bath salts or synthetic marijuana after a state law banned their use are:
- , South Whitehall, owned and operated by Jaymin Patel and Kunal Patel
- , Upper Macungie, operated by Rajwant Thind
View copies of the criminal complaints, the detectives' affadavit, and other documents associated with this case in this article's PDF section.
The defendants were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon by District Judge Catherine Hummel-Fried in Red Hill.