what oath to uphold the Constitution ?

Judge’s ruling gives Oklahoma pipe shop owner breathing room


The owner of a chain of pipe shops in Oklahoma whose business is at risk of being snuffed out by law enforcement has received a temporary victory in federal court.
by Jennifer Palmer Published: July 19, 2015

The owner of a chain of pipe shops whose business is at risk of being snuffed out by law enforcement has received a temporary victory in federal court.

Agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency attempted to muscle Ziggyz Pipe Shops stores out of business by contacting the stores’ landlords, owner Chelsey Davis alleges in a federal lawsuit July 1. Davis purchased the business after a raid on the previous owner.

Davis’ attorney, Micheal Salem, accused the agents of abusing their power by acting as judge and jury—allegations that U.S. Judge Joe Heaton described as troubling. Agents mailed letters to some of the landlords, prompting them to evict or refuse to negotiate new leases with Davis.

“That is not the way to enforce the law,” Salem said. “That is an effort to stomp Ziggyz out of existence.”

On July 10, the judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the DEA from contacting the landlords or attempting to seize the landlords’ property. Heaton, who was once a federal prosecutor, will consider the issues more fully at a hearing scheduled for July 28.

Defending the government officials named in the lawsuit, assistant federal prosecutor Matthew Anderson said the letter written by the DEA agent was simply reiterating the information from a search warrant, which has not been made public.

Davis had to know he was making a risky investment when purchasing the business, Anderson said, and restraining the government from pursuing civil forfeiture wouldn’t prevent the landlords from evicting Davis.

“I don’t fully understand what they think success looks like,” Anderson said.

Davis also asked the judge to address whether any items in his inventory are illegal paraphernalia, a request that the judge said could take weeks. Under state statute, whether an item constitutes drug paraphernalia depends on context and other factors.

Heaton’s ruling could impact several other pipe shop owners facing charges in connection with recent raids at other stores.

Ziggyz had 12 locations across Oklahoma when state and federal law enforcement agents descended on the businesses April 22. Law enforcement involved in the raid included the DEA, Homeland Security, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control and the Oklahoma City Police Department.

No charges have been filed, and the search warrant remains sealed.

However, a public notice on a government forfeiture website details tens of thousands of seized items—six semitrailer loads, according to court records—including pipes, bongs, vaporizers, rolling papers, and detox drinks collected from Ziggyz stores in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Broken Arrow and Sand Springs. No drugs or synthetic marijuana are listed.

Ownership switch

Two weeks after the raid, owner Xiang Yu Ren, also known as Johnny Ren, sold the business and remaining inventory to Davis, who operates a gold business in one of the same retail strip centers as Ziggyz, Salem said. Ren occasionally bought or sold gold at Davis’s store.

Seeing a business opportunity, Davis purchased Ziggyz for 20 cents on the dollar, according to court testimony. He assumed the remaining inventory was legal; otherwise, wouldn’t the DEA have seized those items, too?

Davis formed two new corporations for Ziggyz on May 6, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

He restocked a few items, such as pipes and rolling papers, which Davis believes to be legal based on their prevalence in convenience stores, Salem said.

Davis was in the process of negotiating new leases when he discovered the DEA had sent letters to his landlords, alleging the property “has been used, or is being used, to distribute synthetic cannabinoids,” another name for synthetic marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. The letter warns the landlords that their property could be seized if the activity continued, and the landlord could even be sent to prison or fined.

One of the letters, dated May 19, written on official DEA letterhead and signed by Richard W. Salter, assistant special agent in charge, is evidence in the court case.

Reacting to the letters, landlords began eviction proceedings or giving Davis notice to move out, the lawsuit alleges. Davis already has shuttered five stores, and three others are in litigation.

“Why would anybody want to come down and tangle with the DEA?” Salem asked the judge at the July 10 hearing, pleading for some form of protection for the landlords. If the judge, ultimately, does not side with Davis, the entire business will likely have to fold.

Prior to filing the lawsuit, Davis invited federal agents to his stores to identify illegal products, offering to pull those items from the shelves, court records state. “The agents refused specifics and kept stating everything is paraphernalia, period,” court filings show.

Ziggyz, at 924 SW 59, was open July 10. A clerk was busy answering customers’ questions about rolling papers and pipes displayed in a glass case. Other items for sale included jewelry, stickers and incense.

The raid on Ziggyz is part of a recent law enforcement effort to crack down on pipe shops. Police in Norman recently raided two stores there—McCloud’z Pipes and Fatt Hedz— and took part in a raid at a second Fatt Hedz location in northwest Oklahoma City.

Both Norman stores closed and the owners are facing charges.

Prosecutors charged Tamichael McCloud with a felony: possession of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a park, alleging in court records a pipe containing marijuana residue was found in his vehicle during the raid. McCloud’z was located on Norman’s Main Street near Legacy Trail Park, a public walking trail with no playground equipment.

Brandon Chandler, who owns Fatt Hedz, is charged with six counts of possession or selling paraphernalia in Cleveland County and one count of drug paraphernalia and illegal possession of drug proceeds in Oklahoma County.

Another store, Mr. Coolz in Oklahoma City, was the focus of a multi-agency raid March 24.

Thousands of packages of synthetic marijuana were seized and the owners were accused of money laundering, court records show.

2 Responses

  1. Constitution? It has expired my friend. DEA? Criminal organization PERIOD. Old news. What i did find extremely interesting was that
    this is the second time in the last few weeks I have seen DHS show up as being involved in investigating DRUG cases. The first was of a pain management clinic in FL and now this one for a ‘head shop’ in OK?’
    RU kidding me? WTHell is up with this? NOWHERE in their mission statement does it include ANYTHING to do with these activities.
    From DHS HOMEPAGE: http://www.dhs.gov/mission
    The Core Missions

    There are five homeland security missions:

    Prevent terrorism and enhancing security;
    Secure and manage our borders;
    Enforce and administer our immigration laws;
    Safeguard and secure cyberspace;
    Ensure resilience to disasters;

    I’m sorry but I dont see anything remotely having to do w/ drug enforcement or regulation of our health system. I guess when you refuse to uphold duties related to the 2nd and 3rd missions, rendering the first all but impossible to prevent, you have plenty of time on your hands for meddling in the affairs OF US CITIZENS rather than enemies of the state.
    I’m somewhat shocked but a judge actually had the guts to stand up to these clowns at DHS. They dont think they are upholden to anyone, checks and balances be damned, and that 200+ year old scrap of paper (that is on life support and fading fast)
    “A federal judge in Texas has threatened to hold Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other top immigration enforcement officials in contempt of court for not fixing problems that led to work permits being MISTAKENLY awarded under President Barack Obama’s executive immigration action AFTER the judge had put the plan on hold.”

    Mistake huh? Ok I’ll buy it, NOT.

    Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jul/8/judge-orders-homeland-security-chief-others-to-cou/#ixzz3gUyaSIyf
    Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter


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