By Tamas Mondovics

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s detectives from Patrol District 2 Street Crimes Units and agents with the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) conducted an operation recently targeting local area stores that violate the local ordinance of possessing and selling K2 synthetic marijuana.

The efforts, resulting in the arrest of shop owners and store clerks, involved the execution of a number of search warrants in several Brandon and Seffner area stores and businesses such as at Alpha Chino Smoke Shop -1214 W. MLK Blvd., Seffner Food Mart -12020 MLK Blvd., Citgo Store – 11305 E. Hwy. 92 and Chevron Food Mart – 930 US Hwy. 92.

Despite the arrests, the battle against the fake but just as dangerous synthetic marijuana, which is mainly directed to children, is by no means over as investigations continue by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

A total of 219 bags of synthetic marijuana (K2 spice average retail costs $20-25 per bag), a 2004 Honda Pilot, a 2007 Mercedes, a Sig Sauer .380 handgun, 2 grams of cannabis, 1 gram of Xanax, and $7,995.00 in U.S. Currency resulting in proceeds from illegal spice sales.

Agents with ABT found multiple violations to include possession of synthetic urine (found at 2 stores) and cigarettes without the proper tax stamps.

Those arrested includes Melissa A. Mayes, 35, cashier at the Alpha Chino Smoke shop and Seffner Food Mart owner Mohammad S. Farhan, 35, who had a loaded Sig Sauer .380 handgun on his body at the time of the search warrant and arrest.

HCSO Spokesperson Larry McKinnon said that agents will conduct follow up investigations and determine administrative sanctions and charges.

“Sheriff David Gee and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office continue battling this health menace of synthetic marijuana with a unified effort,” McKinnon said.

Gee said, ”This investigation should send a clear message to those few business owners who choose to continue profiting from this poison, HCSO will not tolerate this activity in our community and will take whatever legal means necessary to stop them.”