A Grafton Township couple has been indicted on federal conspiracy, drug and money laundering charges for allegedly running a chain of head shops that sold synthetic marijuana across the state.
Sean and Sherry Lightner, both 38, allegedly purchased and sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of the illegal substances with names like “Bizzaro,” “Hammer Head Blueberry” and “Devil Inside” through their Twilight Boutique stores in Elyria, Grafton, Brunswick and Athens. The Elyria store was closed Thursday.
“These defendants sold a product that was designed to mimic an illegal drug,” U.S. Attorney for Northern Ohio Steven Dettelbach said in a news release announcing the charges. “No matter what it is labeled or whatever clever name it was given, it was illegal.”
According to the indictment, the stores, including a Lakewood location that was franchised to Dale Drummond, also sold drug paraphernalia such as bongs, pipes and rolling papers. Drummond also faces charges in the case for allegedly selling synthetic marijuana.
The success of the business allowed the Lightners to quickly expand from three locations to 11 in a short amount of time, according to court documents.
Sean Lightner also was operating another company, Aurora Pipe and Glass in Valley View, to provide drug paraphernalia, including glass bongs, to his stores, the investigation determined.
In order to cover up that synthetic marijuana was illegal and meant for recreational use, the substances were often described as “potpourri” and labeled “not for human consumption,” the indictment said.
The Lightners also allegedly took other steps to hide what they were selling, including instructing employees to keep the price list for the synthetic marijuana out of public view and not to sell the drugs and paraphernalia in the same transaction.
That was done in “an effort to conceal that the synthetic cannabinoids were meant for human consumption and to thwart law enforcement,” the indictment said.
The Lightners also allegedly showed employees and others laboratory reports that indicated that the synthetic drugs weren’t illegal, the news release said.
Prosecutors wrote that a person, identified only as “Source 1” in court papers, referred the Lightners to a variety of suppliers from whom they bought synthetic drugs.
Two of the alleged suppliers, Mark Picard of Whittier, Calif., and Nathan Albright of Glendale, Ariz., also face drug and money laundering charges in the case.
After purchasing the drugs, the Lightners allegedly marked them up by about 300 percent before selling them to the public.
With their illicit proceeds, the indictment said, the Lightners purchased numerous vehicles, including a 2005 Dodge Magnum, a 2013 Dodge Journey and a 2013 Dodge Ram 350. Prosecutors want the couple to forfeit ownership of those vehicles.
They also bought a boat and a trailer, showed the investigation, which was run by multiple agencies, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Lorain County Drug Task Force and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division.
Most of those purchases were made with cash or cashier’s checks, according to prosecutors.
The indictment said the Lightners bought their Neff Road home in Grafton Township, which prosecutors want them to forfeit, with $242,834 in cashier’s checks in August 2012.
In addition to the house and cars, prosecutors also want the Lightners to forfeit more than $225,000 in cash seized as part of the investigation.
Calls to attorneys for the Lightners were not returned Thursday.