Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that the owners of two Belmont County businesses have been ordered to close their stores for one year due to the illegal sale of synthetic drugs.
A ruling orders the owners of Fred's Party Centers to close their two businesses, located in Martins Ferry and Bridgeport, beginning Oct. 1, 2013. The stores, which are known publicaly as Martins Ferry Party Center and Bridgeport Party Center, must stay closed until Sept. 30, 2014.
The ruling was made in response to a nuisance abatement action filed by Attorney General DeWine in July.
"Business owners need to know that if they take the risk of selling synthetic drugs, then they are also putting their entire business on the line," DeWine said. "Those who sell these products are marketing dangerous, illegal drugs to our kids, and we take this very seriously."
Earlier this year, officers with the Belmont County Drug Task Force purchased synthetic narcotics from both stores. The owners sold the illegal drugs in their stores as "incense" and "potpourri" for $22.00 or more, while legitimate incense was being sold by the store owners for $0.25 a stick.
In his ruling, Belmont County Common Pleas Court Judge Frank Fregiato said it was clear that the owners were aware the products they were selling were illegal.
DeWine also filed a separate pending lawsuit that alleges that the defendants engaged in unfair, deceptive, and unconscionable acts by selling illegal drugs as legal products.
The Martins Ferry and Bridgeport businesses are the third and fourth stores ordered to temporarily close in Belmont County due to nuisance abatement action filed by DeWine. Earlier this month, a judge ordered that the Shadyside Party Center close for one year, and in July, a judge ordered Bob's Cheap Smokes in St. Clairsville to cease operations until October.