HOBART | The owner of two local smoke shops said he began selling synthetic drugs after he found out he couldn't make enough money selling cigarettes, police said.
Omar A. Alburei, 39, of Crown Point, has been charged through Lake Criminal court with two counts of dealing in a synthetic drug and two counts of maintaining a common nuisance.
Hobart police in early June began investigating the possibility that synthetic marijuana was being sold out of two shops in Hobart: Smoke City, at 1221 W. 37th Ave., and Smoke City, at 7812 E. 37th Ave.
Police worked with a confidential informant who made purchases of synthetic drugs several times during June and October, court documents state.
Warrants were served by police Tuesday and inventory at the two stores included 25 packages of synthetic marijuana at one store and 194 at another.
The smoke shop at 7812 E. 37th Ave. is located 181 feet from a licensed daycare facility, police said.
Alburei told police he has been selling synthetic drugs for about two years.
He said when the law changed and made synthetic marijuana illegal, he stopped selling it for one month but then realized he wasn't making enough of a profit so began selling it and concealing it inside cigarette packages.
Police Chief Rick Zormier said Alburei was making a profit of around $200,000 a year from sales of synthetic marijuana.
"That's pretty huge to be selling out of two businesses in our town," Zormier said.
Zormier said the sale of synthetic drugs will not be tolerated in Hobart because of the effect they have on those who use them, including seizures and in some instances death.
"Synthetic drugs rate right up there with the dangers of heroin," Zormier said.