Major spice bust leaves 2 arrested, customers high and dry

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Both the store owner, 30-year-old Pritalkumar Patel, and one employee, 33-year-old Prayas Patel, were arrested at the scene, but they weren't the only ones upset they were getting shut down.

News 12 talked to a regular customer to the store who wished to remain unnamed.

"Dang, they got busted for spice? Really? I came to buy some," he admitted.

Words from a regular customer who couldn't get what he came for because now it's in the hands of Richmond County narcotics investigators.

"I can get gas and Mountain Dew across the street. But I'm angry that this store is closed, and they weren't angry that they couldn't buy gas and Mountain Dew," said Richmond County Narcotics Investigator Sgt. Allan Rollins.

What they wanted was spice -- an illegal drug referred to as synthetic marijuana. Investigators recovered several pounds of the substance packaged as incense.

They say the street value is more than $10,000.

"Far as spice investigations go, this would be right up there with one of the top investigations we've done. He had a full supply of it," Rollins said.

The owner and the clerk were arrested at the scene and charged with the sale of a synthetic narcotic and possession of synthetic narcotics with intent to distribute.

Investigators say the drug was not sitting out in the open.

"What he had was hidden, and it was under the counter in a locked box, not where the public could see it. You had to know what you were going in there for," Rollins said.

The regular customer says he has one specific reason for smoking spice.

"It just help you pass drug tests. Really, that's the only reason I smoke it," he said.

Investigators say there could be more arrests in the future.

"We probably have enough on the other employees just to go ahead and arrest them, but we are going to do interviews and talk to them and see what their reasoning was behind it," Rollins said.

While there's no spice left to buy there, the regular customer says it doesn't really ruin his plans.

"Shoot. I just been smoking it because, but I'll go buy me some weed, it's cool," he said.

Investigators spent the past month buying spice undercover from the store and having it tested at a crime lab.

They say the store will probably not shut down since it has a legitimate business aspect to it.

In the time News 12 was there after the scene had cleared, at least five other people said they were coming to the store just to buy spice.

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