Uni-Mart Store Owners Accused of Selling Synthetic Marijuana Waive Hearings
CLEARFIELD – The owners of the Hyde and Curwensville Uni-Mart stores who have been accused of selling synthetic marijuana over-the-counter waived their rights to preliminary hearings in both cases during Centralized Court this morning at the Clearfield County Jail.
In two, different cases, Gurpreet Singh, 42, and Rupinder Kaur, 43, both of Clearfield, are facing charges of criminal conspiracy/manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance; manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance; intentional possession of controlled or counterfeit substance by person not registered. Bail has been set at $5,000 unsecured for these cases.
Trooper Jared K. Thomas of the Pennsylvania State Police is currently assigned to the Troop C Vice Unit at the Punxsutawney barracks. He works as an undercover officer who investigates violations of the state’s Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, Thomas received information that the Hyde and Curwensville Uni-Marts were selling and distributing synthetic marijuana, which is also known as K2. It was sold in foil packets with labels; some names were “Atomic Bomb,” “Rush” and “Radio Active.” From his information, Thomas learned synthetic marijuana could be purchased over-the-counter at the Uni-Mart stores.
At approximately 11:18 a.m. Nov. 1, 2011, Thomas entered the Hyde Uni-Mart, where there were two Caucasian women of foreign descent behind the counter. One woman was Kaur. Thomas asked if they had any “Radio Active,” or suspected synthetic marijuana. Kaur replied yes and asked if he wanted 1.5 grams or 3 grams. Thomas asked for 3 grams.
According to him, the suspected synthetic marijuana is located behind the counter on the shelf near the cigarettes. The other woman marked a tablet located behind the counter and entered the amount in the cash register. Kaur handed Thomas the suspected synthetic marijuana that was inside a silver, foil package with black stickers on it. It was labeled “Radio Active” on the front. Thomas handled Kaur two, $20 bills and she gave him $4 in return.
At approximately 11:29 a.m., Thomas entered the Curwensville Uni-Mart. Singh, a man of foreign decent, was standing behind the counter and Thomas asked if he had any “Rush.” Thomas wasn’t able to understand what exactly Singh said when he replied to him. However, Singh told him to wait and walked to the back of the store. During his wait, Thomas read a newspaper article posted on the wall, showing Singh and Kaur, as their store had sold a $100,000 winning lottery ticket. From the article and picture, Thomas read Singh as the last name of the man and that he and Kaur owned both the Hyde and Curwensville Uni-Mart stores.
Singh returned, telling Thomas he was out of “Rush” at which point he grabbed two, different packets of synthetic marijuana from behind the counter and pointed to the packet called “Atomic Bomb.” He asked Thomas if he’d ever tried it to which Thomas replied “no.” Singh told Thomas that it was “good stuff” and Thomas purchased the packet for $36.
Thomas said the evidence was transported to the Clearfield-based state police, where it was packaged and entered into a receiving locker by him and Cpl. Gregory Raybuck. Raybuck sent the evidence to the Erie Regional Laboratory for testing.
On Nov. 3, 2011, forensic scientist Brett Bailor tested the evidence from the Curwensville Uni-Mart and found the packet weighed 2.8 grams. On Nov. 9, 2011, Bailor tested the evidence from the Hyde Uni-Mart and found that the plant material weighed 2.5 grams. From both stores, Bailor found that the evidence contained synthetic cannabinoids, a Schedule I structural isomer.
On Nov. 7, 2011, Thomas applied for and was granted search warrants for the Hyde and Curwensville Uni-Mart stores through Magisterial District Judge Richard Ireland. Troop C Vice Unit members executed the search warrants almost simultaneously at approximately 11:53 a.m. in Curwensville and 11:55 a.m. in Hyde.
Upon entry of the stores, all customers were cleared with the doors being locked. Singh was present during the Curwensville Unit-Mart search and Kaur for the Hyde Uni-Mart search.
In Hyde, Thomas executed the search warrant with Cpl. William Meko at which point they seized 249 various marked packets that contained suspected synthetic marijuana and 45 various smoking devices and two metal grinders.
In Curwensville, Troopers James McIntosh, Michael Boltz and Chris Pifer executed the search warrant. They seized 280 various marked packets that contained suspected synthetic marijuana.
All evidence was transported to the Clearfield-based state police. All items were entered into evidence by Thomas and Raybuck before being packaged and sent to the Erie Regional Laboratory. On Dec. 20, 2011, Bailor found that 43 items were tested and weighed a total of 102 grams from the Hyde store. He tested 38 items that weighed a total of 103 grams from the Curwensville store. They were analyzed and found to contain a Schedule 1 structural isomer.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, at approximately 4:30 p.m. March 5, Thomas interviewed Richard Lee VonGunden at the Hyde Uni-Mart. He had worked at the current Uni-Mart for approximately one year. He said the synthetic marijuana was placed out on the shelf by owners, Singh and Kaur. One would leave the inventory sheet on the counter every day, and all employees were required to write down their sales on it.
He said Singh and Kaur would count the number of packages of synthetic marijuana at the beginning and at the end of the day. He said the employees never stocked the shelves with synthetic marijuana. He said he had neither observed Singh and Kaur ordering the items nor any packages getting shipped directly to the store.
However, VonGunden said when the law went into effect Aug. 21, 2011, Singh and Kaur pulled everything that was remaining from the shelves. When the new brand of synthetic marijuana arrived, it was packaged completely different from the previous items that the store had sold. Singh and Kaur told employees that the new brand was legal to sell. When selling the items, they rang the cash register as a miscellaneous item and added the tax to it. After tax was included, he said it usually came out to an even amount.
Toward the end, VonGunden noticed most customers were teenagers to young adults. He would card them and most were 18 years old through their mid-20’s. Customers asked for either “K2” or by brand name, such as “Atomic Bomb,” “Rush” or other names. He said sometimes the owners’ son would place items out for sale but not as often as Singh and Kaur.
On May 24, Trooper Mark Rorabaugh interviewed Melissa M. Drobny, an employee of the Curwensville Uni-Mart store. She said that Singh and Kaur would order synthetic marijuana and stock the shelves. When she sold an item, she’d enter it in the cash register as a miscellaneous item and add tax to it.