In an investigation that lasted most of this week, agents with the Hall County Multi Agency Narcotics Squad (MANS) arrested four people and confiscated $42,000 worth of synthetic marijuana.
Lt. Don Scalia said agents began receiving information about possible illegal activity last week, and as a result, they served an arrest warrant Tuesday, Feb. 18 at a residence on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Gainesville. Scalia said three of the four suspects lived at the residence.
"That's the residence of Roosevelt and Kareem Bishop - they're brothers - and Deric Whitaker," Scalia said. "We actually came across multiple packages of synthetic marijuana inside the residence - it totaled about one pound of synthetic marijuana."
In addition, agents found chemicals, protective chemical masks, packaging materials, a money counting machine and other materials linked to the manufacture and distribution of synthetic marijuana.
Scalia said they arrested Kareem Amon Bishop, Deric Leon Whitaker and Tiara Kanisha Cobb at the scene, but Roosevelt Bishop was not there.
"We were finally able to track him down yesterday [Thursday, Feb. 20]," said Scalia, saying officers made a traffic stop on the suspect in the city limits of Gainesville. "In his possession when he was stopped was an additional one-and-a-half pounds of synthetic marijuana and a container of an unknown liquid substance - we don't know what it is, we're going to send it off for testing - and also digital scales."
Scalia said while synthetic marijuana is not marijuana in a true sense, it can be a dangerous substance.
"A lot of folks think it's safer than marijuana or that it's not as big a deal as marijuana [but] the possession of any amount of synthetic marijuana is a felony," Scalia said. He said the material, typically plant-based, is sprayed with a chemical.
"The chemical is typically obtained from overseas, and the problem is you don't know what it is," Scalia said. "The danger therein is that you don't know what those chemicals are."
He said criminals will then take various chemicals and mix them, making the substance even more dangerous to those who ingest it.
At last report, the suspects in this week's case remained in jail. Scalia said no other arrests are expected.