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Drugs, money seized in head shop raids

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Federal agents raided Tebb’s Headshop in Watertown on Wednesday as part of a regionwide sweep related to the sale of illegal synthetic drugs.

A Tebb’s employee was taken away by authorities, according to witnesses outside the 144 Eastern Blvd. business. Information about whether the man was under arrest was not immediately available, although later in the day a member of the Metro-Jeff Drug Task Force, which assisted the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in the raid, said no arrests were made.

After an hour inside the store, a DEA officer was seen carrying a box full of plastic evidence bags out to a sport utility vehicle, which then was driven away.

City police also assisted at the raid scene.

A person who was in the store during the raid — who declined to be identified for fear of losing his job — said police questioned him about bath salts, a synthetic drug that recently was made illegal via federal legislation.

The head shop sells glass pipes and other paraphernalia for tobacco use, the proprietors say. Drug users often use the devices to smoke marijuana.

After police left, the front door was locked, and a man who appeared to be an employee did not answer knocks at the door. While police were inside, several potential customers tried to get in the store but were turned away.

“I thought this (stuff) was legal,” one man said as he walked away.

The store’s owner, John E. Tebbetts III, did not respond to multiple calls and an email sent Wednesday seeking comment.

The raid had been scheduled and was only coincidental to an incident Tuesday morning in which a Watertown man, upset that his son nearly died Monday from the use of a substance allegedly purchased in Tebb’s, went on a bat-swinging rampage in the shop, the Jefferson County drug task force source said.

A source familiar with the investigation said federal agents confiscated drugs and thousands of dollars from the Watertown store. All together, the raid here and in other Northern and Central New York counties produced hundreds of thousands of dollars, the source said.

William W. Bowman, executive director of the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council of Jefferson County, said he was happy to hear news of the raid.

“It’s a complete surprise,” he said.

Mr. Bowman said he and other officials in the county had been pursuing action against stores like Tebb’s for about four months.

“Every time it seems that we’re making progress, there seems to be a loophole,” he said.

He called the raid a message to other retailers who sell similar products.

“Anyone who is selling these products is going to have to really think hard about continuing to do these kinds of things,” Mr. Bowman said.

Another Tebb’s shop was raided at noon Wednesday in the 500 block of North Salina Street, Syracuse, the Syracuse Post-Standard reported.

The raids were coordinated by federal authorities, and combined federal and local law enforcement, said Nixon Frederick, a supervisory special agent with the DEA.

A new federal law recently banned common drugs used in bath salts and synthetic marijuana. At the time the law passed, a DEA official said the law would allow agents to go after sellers of such drugs, just as they did narcotics and other illegal drugs.

Times staff writers Gordon Block and David C. Shampine contributed to this report.

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