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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Feds indict Gas Pipe, Ridglea Theater owner in alleged synthetic-marijuana business

DALLAS (AP) — A Texas head shop chain, its owner and his daughter are among almost three dozen businesses and individuals accused in a federal indictment involving an alleged synthetic marijuana distribution ring.

Dallas-based Gas Pipe Inc., owner Gerald “Jerry” Shults, his daughter Amy Lynn Herrig, and Herrig’s own Amy Lynn Inc. are among the 32 defendants named in the indictment unsealed in Dallas on Friday. All are charged with single counts of conspiracy, while Gas Pipe, Amy Lynn, Shults and Herrig are among defendants charged with multiple drug trafficking, conspiracy and money laundering counts. Shults also owns Fort Worth’s Ridglea Theater. 

A federal grand jury in Dallas handed up the indictment on May 6. Most of those charged in the indictment, including Shults and Herrig, have turned themselves in or been arrested. Shults and Herrig are jailed pending a detention hearing Monday.

Acting U.S. Attorney John Parker called the indictment “just another step in our continued effort to protect the citizens of this community from being harmed by the dangerous synthetic drugs that continue to be marketed as ‘legal’ alternatives to illicit drugs.”

However George Milner, Shults’ attorney, denied that the products sold in the chain’s 14 stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and Albuquerque, New Mexico, areas are illegal. He says the federal government is “taking every measure possible” to close the 45-year-old company and put its almost 200 employees out of work.

“The law prohibits very specific things,” he said. “Something is ‘illegal’ or it’s not, and being ‘almost illegal’ is the same as being not illegal.”

The indictment alleges that Gas Pipe and Amy Lynn sold millions of dollars in products commonly referred to as “spice” in the “designer” or synthetic drug market. That is a smokeable organic plant substance that has been combined with a synthetic cannabis-like substance. To maintain the illusion of legality, the products were marketed as “herbal incense,” ”potpourri” or “aroma therapy products” ”not for human consumption.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says “spice” can raise the heart rate and blood pressure and cause seizures, agitation, vomiting, hallucinations, violent behavior, inability to breathe and psychotic episodes.

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