Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Belmont County Prosecutor Chris Berhalter have announced that a business owner found selling synthetic drugs has been ordered to close her store for one year.
Stacey Heathcote, the owner of Shadyside Party Center, 3750 Central Avenue, was also indicted by a Belmont County Grand Jury on two counts of trafficking in drugs and one count of drug possession. The drug possession charge includes a major drug offender specification, which carries a mandatory 11-year prison sentence.
"This case shows how serious state and local authorities are about stopping the sale of synthetic drugs," DeWine said. "Not only must this defendant close her store for a year, but she is now looking at the possibility of being sentenced to leave her family and friends and go to prison."
In a ruling issued last week, Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Solovan II declared Shadyside Party Center a public nuisance and ordered that the business be closed from Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014.
The ruling was made after Attorney General DeWine filed a nuisance abatement action against the business earlier this year.
If found guilty of the criminal charges filed against her, Healthcote could also be required to forfeit her business and all associated real estate.
"We are very grateful for the Attorney General's help in this battle," Berhalter said. "Synthetic drugs are illegal and just as harmful and dangerous as heroin or cocaine. We will continue to attack this problem head-on until it no longer exists in our communities."
In March, authorities with the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), Belmont County Sheriff's Office, and Belmont County Drug Task Force served a search warrant at the business after undercover officers purchased synthetic narcotics from the store on two separate occasions.
According to the nuisance abatement judgment entry, Heathcote stated that she sold between $2,000 to $3,000 worth of the product each week. The drugs were sold as "incense" and "potpourri," but the judge ruled that Heathcote was aware that the products were likely being consumed as illegal drugs.
DeWine also filed a civil lawsuit against Heathcote, which is still pending, alleging she engaged in unfair, deceptive, and unconscionable acts by selling the illegal drugs as a legal product.
Shadyside Party Center is the second Belmont County business ordered to temporarily close due to the sale of synthetic drugs. In July, a judge ordered Bob's Cheap Smokes in St. Clairsville to cease operations until October.
Anyone who suspects that synthetic drugs are being sold in their community can call BCI at 855-BCI-OHIO [Call: 855-BCI-OHIO] (855-224-6446 [Call: 855-224-6446] ).