BELLEVILLE, Ill. (KTVI) A Drug Tactical Unit raid on convenience stores in St. Clair County Tuesday netted an unexpectedly large amount of synthetic drugs and cash. The unit and officers from six departments had been working the case since the beginning of 2012.
Initial complaints from parents and a new Illinois state law better defining illegal synthetic drugs prompted the investigation and undercover purchases of illegal products often sold as "bath salts," "potpourri" or fake marijuana.
St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said, "This problem is a lot deeper than we thought," as he surveyed the evidence seized from just one of the 13 convenience stores where officers executed search warrants. Weapons, synthetic drugs by the box full and tens of thousands of dollars of cash along with drug paraphernalia were laid out on five tables at the County Sheriff's headquarters.
Capt. Steven Johnson of the Sheriff's Department explained officers were determined to target this problem after hearing from parents whose children had become disabled after even one dose of the fake drugs. Johnson described one teen who had to learn how to feed himself again.
"This isn't just a gateway drug," said Illinois State Rep. Jerry Costello II, the former police chief of Sauget. He said undercover officers bought synthetic drugs just a block and a half from his own daughter's high school.
Costello is sponsoring additional legislation in the Illinois Legislature to strengthen penalties against retailers who sell such products. His bill, Illinois House Bill 5233 has passed the House and is now in the state Senate.
Police warn the synthetic products are of irregular strength and may often produce intense and mixed responses causing extreme highs, depressions or severe anxiety. The products usually carry labels saying "not for human consumption," but that does not make them legal.
No arrests were made Tuesday, but Kelly predicted charges would be filed in the future once the investigation is complete.
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