Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 16, 2013

Warrant issued for Dark Wings owner

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

ASHLAND — Police have obtained a warrant for the arrest of the owner of an Ashland novelty shop that was raided earlier this week on suspicion of selling synthetic drugs.

Lt. Darren Wilson, commander of the Ashland Police Department’s Criminal Investigations section, said Friday a warrant had been issued charging Yvonda G. Nichols, 56, of Greenup, owner of Dark Wings Novelties, with one count of use and investment of drug-related income, a Class D felony. Additional charges are pending, he said.

Nichols remained at large at press time.

The charge stems from Wednesday’s seizure of suspected synthetic drugs and other items from the shop, which is in the 500 block of 29th Street. Officers converged on the business about 6 p.m. Wednesday and executed a search warrant. A large quantity of suspected synthetic marijuana was seized, along with a small amount of actual marijuana, cash and a

9 mm handgun.

Police also confiscated a number of items from the shop’s inventory that are commonly associated with smoking legal and illegal substances, including pipes, hookahs, bongs and rolling papers. According to APD Maj. Todd Kelley, the sale of such items is legal as long as it’s not done in conjunction with the sale of an illegal substance — synthetic marijuana, in this case.

“Once you find the illegal (substance), it becomes drug paraphernalia,” he said.

Wilson said the APD took action against Dark Wings in response to numerous complaints that the shop was selling synthetic marijuana, which was outlawed in Kentucky last year by the state legislature. He said many of those complaints had come from parents and others who deal with children and involved youngsters being caught with synthetic pot or found to be under the influence of it.

Some of the synthetics seized from Dark Wings featured illustrations of cartoon and video game characters on the packets. One carried the name and symbol of a legendary heavy-metal band.

Wilson said the packets sold for less than $20 for the small ones to nearly $200 for the largest ones. He also said Boyd Circuit Judge C. David Hagerman, at the APD’s request, had issued an injunction freezing Dark Wings’ bank accounts.

This isn’t the first time one of Nichols’ businesses has run afoul of the law. In January of last year, authorities in Scioto County raided her Dark Wings store in Wheelersburg and seized about 5,000 packets and containers of synthetic marijuana and bath salts, along with prescription pills and $34,000 cash.

Nichols pleaded guilty last month in Scioto County Common Pleas Court to charges of possession of drugs and money-laundering. She was sentenced to 48 months, but Wilson said it was his understanding her sentence was probated on the condition she not commit any other crimes.

Synthetic marijuana, or “Spice,” is made by chemically treating dried leaves from common herbal plants. It’s sold in foil packets as “herbal incense” or “potpourri.” The packets are labeled “Not for Human Consumption,” put purchasers generally use the products as substitute marijuana.

Spice products are popular among young people; of the illicit drugs most used by high-school seniors, they are second only to marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

While there have been no scientific studies on the product’s effects on the human brain, Spice abusers have been taken to Poison Control Centers reporting symptoms that included rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion and hallucinations. Spice can also raise blood pressure and cause reduced blood supply to the heart and in a few cases it has been associated with heart attacks, according to the NIDA’s website.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.