On Thursday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Belmont County Prosecutor Chris Berhalter announced that the owner of the Shadyside Party Center, who was found selling synthetic drugs, has been ordered to close the store for one year.
Store owner Stacey Heathcote has been indicted by a Belmont County Grand Jury on two counts of trafficking in drugs and one count of drug possession. The drug possession charge includes a major drug offender specification, which carries a mandatory 11-year prison sentence.
In a press release issued on Thursday, Attorney General DeWine said, "This case shows how serious state and local authorities are about stopping the sale of synthetic drugs. Not only must this defendant close her store for a year, but she is now looking at the possibility of being sentenced to leave her family and friends and go to prison."
Last week, Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Solovan II declared the Shadyside Party Center a public nuisance and ordered that the business be closed from October 1, 2013, to September 30, 2014. The ruling was made after Attorney General DeWine filed a nuisance abatement action against the business earlier this year.
If found guilty of the criminal charges filed against her, Healthcote could also be required to forfeit her business and all associated real estate. According to the nuisance abatement judgment entry, Heathcote stated that she sold between $2,000 to $3,000 worth of the product each week. The drugs were sold as "incense" and "potpourri," but the judge ruled that Heathcote was aware that the products were likely being consumed as illegal drugs.
In March, authorities with the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), Belmont County Sheriff's Office, and Belmont County Drug Task Force served a search warrant at the business after undercover officers purchased synthetic narcotics from the store on two separate occasions.
Attorney General DeWine also filed a civil lawsuit against Heathcote, which is still pending, alleging she engaged in unfair, deceptive, and unconscionable acts by selling the illegal drugs as a legal product.
The Shadyside Party Center is the second Belmont County business ordered to temporarily close due to the sale of synthetic drugs. In July, a judge ordered Bob's Cheap Smokes in St. Clairsville to cease operations until October.