SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Seminole County deputies made multiple arrests after raiding several stores accused of selling illegal synthetic marijuana.
Investigators said they confiscated nearly 800 packages of synthetic and imitation drugs in their raids. Some of the illegal substances were marketed under several names, including bath salts, K2 and Spice.
Authorities said some of the confiscated packages tested positive for synthetic drugs while others did not.
The suspects have been identified as Derick Pagan-Cordova, Maged Youssef, Maurice McKnight and Nereida Pagan.
Channel 9's Tim Barber has been working the story for months, since a woman called in the fall alerting WFTV to a store in Casselberry selling the illegal synthetic drugs.
Barber contacted authorities and found the store was one of the four that was busted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Casselberry police and the Seminole County Sheriff's Office.
Over the last few months, Channel 9 learned undercover agents were purchasing samples of suspected synthetic drugs and then having them analyzed by the FDLE.
Pagan-Cordova was arrested at a Citgo on Altamonte Drive in Altamonte Springs.
Undercover agents said they purchased the synthetic marijuana Mr. Nice Guy Shamrocks from Pagan-Cordova. Agents said the business also had K2 and Spice but did not put them in view of the public.
Pagan-Cordova has been charged with possession of synthetic narcotics with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver and possession of drug equipment.
Youssef was arrested at Chuluota Grocery on East Seventh Street in Oviedo.
Undercover agents said they purchased the synthetic marijuana known as Mr. Nice Guy from Youssef, who has since been charged with possession and the sale of synthetic drugs.
McKnight was taken into custody at Casselberry Liquor on State Road 436.
Agents said they were able to purchase the synthetic drug Outer Edge from McKnight. He was charged with the sale of synthetic narcotics, possession with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver, possession of bath salts and possession of a weapon or ammo by a convicted felon.
Pagan was arrested in Casselberry and charged with the sale of imitation drugs and possession of drug equipment.
Authorities said they successfully purchased imitation drugs and paraphernalia from Pagan at Tobacco and Beer Outlet on State Road 434.
Barber stopped at each store, but the owner of Casselberry Liquor was the only one who agreed to talk.
"They say it's illegal. It's completely legal," the man said. "If you do lab reports, everything is completely legal."
"They say it's dangerous so why are you selling it?" asked Barber.
"It's not dangerous," the owner said. "All our customers who came in like it. We have had zero problems besides maybe one."
But one woman told Channel 9 she suspected her relative was buying synthetic drugs from the store.
"It's a bad drug," the woman said. "It can't be good for you. That kind of stuff can't be good for you."
The entire undercover operation took in 800 packages of synthetic drugs and more than 500 items of drug paraphernalia, authorities said.