Four Retailers Reimbursed After Synthetic Drugs Seized

Lawsuits against county settled out of court

BLOOMFIELD, Mo. -- Three Missouri convenience-store owners will be issued a total of $70,000, with a fourth settlement amount yet undecided, as a result of lawsuits brought against Stoddard County prosecuting attorney Russ Oliver and Sheriff Carl Hefner following the July 14, 2011, confiscation of hundreds of packets that county authorities contended contained imitation controlled substances.

Rick Lane of RL's Package Plus in Essex, Mo., will receive a sum of $15,000; Jim Page of J&R Quick Stop in Bloomfield, Mo., will get $25,000; and Gary Jackson, owner of Jack's at Bernie, Mo., will get $30,000, according to a report in the Daily Statesman. The amounts were outlined in a letter from attorneys representing Stoddard County's insurance company, dated Aug. 13, to the Stoddard County Clerk's office. The letter directs payment to the three individual store owners. Settlement for a fourth operation included in the July 2011 seizures, Tootie's 225 Package Store in Dexter, Mo., has yet to be decided.

"It's important that the public realizes that no judges or attorneys were involved in this decision,” Oliver told the newspaper. “This money will be distributed because insurance companies calculated the amount that it would cost to conduct four jury trials and then decided to pay out rather than go to trial because it is a cost-effective solution.

"I was opposed to paying anything to any of these stores. I told the insurance company that from day one. I was adamant that we pay nothing to these stores. I wanted a jury to decide on this. It was a frivolous suit, in my opinion."

When Stoddard County sheriff's deputies, along with Dexter Police, confiscated packets containing synthetic or "analogue" drugs from six convenience stores in July 2011, it was with the compliance of shop owners, managers and in one case, a store employee. Each was handed a letter at the time of the confiscation from Oliver informing them of the county's stance regarding the sale of "imitation controlled substances" --the target of the confiscation.

Oliver's letter stated that "possessing, selling, purchasing or otherwise transferring these compounds is illegal under Missouri law," and that the prosecuting attorney's officer would "vigorously investigate and prosecute those who sell or possess these compounds."

Each willingly turned over the packets, which were found on the store shelves openly displayed and being sold as incense in many cases, he said. The packets carried names that included Ivory, Euphoria, Cloud Nine and Bliss. Their contents were, Oliver contended, comprised of chemicals that mimic controlled substances--illegal according to a Missouri statute criminalizing the possession and distribution of imitation controlled substances, according to the report.

Although store owners were said to be compliant at the time of the confiscation, four of the business owners whose stores were included in the seizures filed suit in federal court against both Oliver and Hefner in the weeks following the seizures.

The lawsuits contended that the sweep was "intimidating and menacing to owners, employees and customers." Jim Page, of J&R Quick Stop in Bloomfield, contended in his lawsuit that the herbal incense taken at his store was legal.

The lawsuits went on to state the confiscation caused "reputational harm to the businesses, owners and their businesses by implying that they were engaged in illegal activities," and that the four combined lost a combined $1,456 in inventory when their shelves were emptied of the packets. Also cited in the lawsuits was a projected $64,408 in potential lost income and earnings.

Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal P.C., attorneys for the county's insurance company out of Clayton, Mo., informed the county clerk's office on Aug. 13 of the settlements. The settlements were decided upon outside of a court setting between attorneys from the Clayton firm and the plaintiffs' attorney.