MINI-MART OPERATORS INDICTED
HARRISBURG - Two men who operate Mount Royal Mini-Mart in Ranshaw are among eight central Pennsylvania people indicted this month for allegedly operating a drug ring involving "bath salts" and synthetic marijuana.
Jaswinder Fatra, 41, of Ranshaw, and six others were apprehended as part of Operation Rubber Ducky run by a federal drug task force.
Slimane Belabbas, 34, of Ranshaw, remains at large.
A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday lists Fatra and Belabbas among those accused of trafficking synthetic drugs at multiple mini-marts in Dauphin, Cumberland, Lebanon, Mifflin and Lancaster counties.
More than $6 million in suspected drug money was seized by the U.S. Attorney's Office from banks in Maryland and Texas.
While Northumberland County was not listed, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith confirmed Wednesday that a November 2011 raid at the Ranshaw convenience store was associated with the indictment.
Fatra entered a plea of not guilty on April 19. He was released on $50,000 bond.
Also indicted are Kulwinder Singh Grewal, 38, of Myerstown; Amarjit Singh Grewal, 32, of Ephrata; Jesse Roldan, 40, of Jim Thorpe; Steven Accardi, 30, of Willow Street, Lancaster County; Baljeet Singh, 42, of Lancaster; and Inderjit Jassal, 31, of Richfield.
Federal authorities allege the men sold Methcathinone and MDPV, known on the street as "bath salts" and "jewelry cleaner," between May 2011 and March 2012. They're also alleged to have sold synthetic marijuana under names such as Captain Fly, Tigers Blood, Bangkok Chill and Kryptonite Krush.
All are charged with the alleged unlawful distribution of controlled substances, use of a communication facility to carry out that offense, criminal conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and distributing and conspiring to distribute misbranded drugs in central Pennsylvania, according a media release by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The indictment was returned by the grand jury April 4 but kept sealed to allow simultaneous arrests to be made and coordinate the seizure of the money, according to the media release.
A trial date of June 4 is scheduled in U.S. Middle District Court before Chief Judge Yvette Kane.
The defendants face a maximum of 52 years imprisonment and fines up to $2.75 million, along with the forfeiture of $1 million combined.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William A. Behe will prosecute the case.
Coal Township Police Department is among the law enforcement agencies commended by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The township police force executed a search warrant in November on Mount Royal Mini-Mart, a Sunoco station located on Route 901 near an on/off ramp for Route 61.
Fatra and Belabbas were each named on the warrant.
Before the warrant was served, several controlled drug buys were conducted using a confidential informant who allegedly purchased synthetic marijuana and "bath salts" last fall at the store.
Township Patrolman Joshua Wynn and Shamokin Cpl. Brian Primerano were instrumental in the local investigation.
Several concoctions of synthetic drugs such as "bath salts" and the like were outlawed by the state last June.