5 arrested after chain of local smoke shops caught selling synthetic drugs

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Investigators said they busted several smoke shops Friday that were selling synthetic drugs.

Investigators targeted a chain of shops known as Pipe Dreams across four central Florida counties.

Five people have been arrested in the operation, but the search continues for six other suspects.

The undercover sting began a year ago after investigators received complaints of illegal drugs being sold at the stores.

Undercover deputies said they bought the drugs at five different stores.

“Seeing that there was nobody in here at all and the gate’s closed, it was just a very odd thing,” said Andrew Altuchoff, who pulled up to the Pipe Dreams in Sanford to find that it was closed.

The arrests come on the heels of a December raid of the Sanford store and four others in Orange, Volusia and Lake counties.

Altuchoff said he wasn’t surprised, because he had seen customers acting strangely in the store.

“Seemed a little on edge. A lot of energy, very odd, and asked them for this type of oil. I think CBD or something like that,” he said.

Two of the employees who got arrested told Channel 9 the CBD oil is what got them in trouble.

CBD is the compound in marijuana that can’t get someone high, but deputies said the oil on sale contained THC.

“Whether it’s 100 percent or there’s some content of it, THC is illegal to be used and sold here in Florida,” said Kim Cannaday of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.

The December raids led to another seven months of investigation and warrants for five people, including the owner of the Pipe Dreams chain, James Knapton.

His wife, Amie Knapton, hasn’t been arrested yet.

Jacob Farrow, 22, Brandon Beckman, 33, Clifford Lagarde, 30, and Bonnie Ashworth, 53, are all facing various drug charges.

Five other suspects have warrants out for their arrests. All are accused of selling the equivalent of weed.