A Lemon Grove dollar store will have to pay more than $50,000 in penalties for openly selling an illegal “designer drug” known as spice and accepting federal assistance money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as payment, San Diego County District Attorney officials announced today.
The District Attorney’s office filed a consumer protection case against the Best $1 Store which they say had been selling synthetic cannabinoid compounds – or psychoactive bath salts and certain herbal incenses – that have illegal to sell in California since January 2012.
But store and District Attorney officials agreed to settle the case for $54,178 in civil penalties, costs and other relief, officials said.
In March and April, San Diego Sheriff’s deputies conducted an undercover operation at the Best $1 in the 7500 block of Broadway. Investigators said they made nine separate transactions that included the purchase of spice. To compound the issue the store allowed the undercover officers to purchase spice and other non-food items with SNAP benefits loaded on EBT cards.
SNAP benefits may only be used to purchase approved food items.
“These designer drugs have been shown to be dangerous, and in some cases, deadly,” said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. “Our Consumer Protection Unit has been warning stores not to sell these illegal substances and using civil prosecutions, we’re holding defendants accountable when they ignore state law.”
The store has also agreed to a permanent injunction that prohibits the sale of items not eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits in violation of the rules, regulations and guidelines of the SNAP benefit program, officials said.
Broken down, the judgment requires the payment of $48,000 in civil penalties and $6,178.76 in investigation and prosecution costs. San Diego Superior Court Judge Joes S. Pressman signed the judgment on Dec. 5, DA officials said.
“Best $1 entered into the settlement without any admission of wrongdoing, and the prosecutors in the case acknowledge that Best $1’s principal and its counsel worked cooperatively with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office to resolve the matter promptly,” officials said through a written statement. “Prosecutors also acknowledged the excellent work of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, Lemon Grove Sub-Station, and the assistance of the United State Department of Agriculture -- Office of the Inspector General, which investigates violations of the SNAP benefit program.”
The case was handled by Deputy District Attorney Steve Spinella and Special Prosecutor Tom Papageorge.