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National Drug Raid Includes 3 IC Shops
IOWA CITY, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28/AP) -- Three Iowa City businesses were the target of federal search warrants Wednesday, as agents investigate alleged drug activity. It's part of a national crackdown on synthetic drug manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.
Police tell CBS 2 News that Happy Daze, Zombies Tobacco and Pipes and Pipe Dreamz were all the focus of search warrants Wednesday morning. Authorities say items were seized from the stores but said additional information would come from federal authorities.
Agents with the IRS and DEA are on scene in Iowa City collecting information and evidence.
The DEA has been cracking down on synthetic drugs, including so-called bath salts, spice and Molly, since the drugs first gained widespread popularity years ago.
In late 2010, the agency responsible for enforcing federal drug laws moved to ban five chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana blends, including K2, Spice and Blaze. Since then, drug manufacturers have continued to modify their formulas and develop new chemical mixtures.
Ferdinand Large, staff coordinator for DEA's Special Operations Division, said the agency is now broadly focused on Chinese chemical manufacturers and the distributors, wholesalers and retailers in the United States. There is also growing concern about where the money is going.
Investigators have tracked hundreds of millions of dollars in drug proceeds being sent to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, Large said.
"The money is going there, where it stops we don't know," Large said. Large said it's also unclear which criminal organizations may be profiting from the drug proceeds.
U.S. authorities long have worried about criminal and terrorist groups in the Middle East using drug trafficking to fund illicit activities.
In a November 2013 report on transnational organized crime, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said "drug trafficking organizations and terror networks are joined at the hip in many parts of the world.
"DEA must relentlessly purse these dangerous individuals and criminal groups that attempt to use drug trafficking profits to fuel and fund terror networks, such as Hezbollah," Leonhart said.
Payne said Wednesday's crackdown was focused strictly on U.S. targets and involved 66 DEA cases, seven investigations led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents and several others led by Customs and Border Protection that focused on express consignment shipments.
Last year, the DEA and Customs and Border Protection wrapped up a 7-month investigation that ended in 150 arrests and the seizure of about a ton of drugs.