State Supreme Court Judge James P. McClusky has ruled that Tebbs Headshop violated state law by selling mislabeled products that are synthetic drugs and has set a hearing to determine what penalties the business should face.
In a decision filed Monday at the Jefferson County clerks office, Judge McClusky permanently enjoined Tebbs and its owner, John E. Tebbetts III, 33, Floyd, Oneida County, from ever selling the mislabeled products, which included synthetic marijuana and bath salts that were labeled not fit for human consumption.
The evidence is clear that these items were marketed and sold for human consumption notwithstanding labeling that indicated it was not for human consumption, Judge McClusky wrote in his decision.
The state attorney generals office has targeted retailers across the state for selling the products, including the now-closed Tebbs location at 144 Eastern Blvd. An undercover investigator with the office had visited Tebbs Watertown store, as well as locations in Syracuse and Herkimer, and had been advised by clerks how to use the products and told of experiences that could result from taking what the judge said are best described as street drug alternatives.
Bath salts, the synthetic drug similar to methamphetamine and cocaine, drew attention from local law enforcement and health officials because of the adverse health effects the products had on their users. The products had circumvented state and federal regulators by being labeled as inedible products such as butterfly attractant and plant food. Judge McClusky noted that the products labeling contained no information about potential health risks, as required under state Education Law.
The labels are not only for the protection of the end user, but also for society who must deal with the aftermath of those who do use the misbranded drugs, Judge McClusky wrote.
The attorney general also went after Tebbs and other head shops under state Agriculture and Market Laws, which require that consumable items bear labels showing, among other things, the manufacturer, the products contents and known health risks. Judge McClusky ruled that Tebbs sale of products for human consumption without the required labels was an illegal act.
In addition to permanently banning the sale of the items, the judge has set a Feb. 20 hearing to establish penalties and costs incurred by the attorney general in bringing the action. Deanna R. Nelson, assistant attorney general in charge of the Watertown regional office, who is prosecuting similar cases against 15 other businesses statewide, previously has told Judge McClusky that her office will seek civil penalties against Mr. Tebbetts that could exceed $100,000.
Mr. Tebbetts will suffer criminal penalties for selling the products. He pleaded guilty Dec. 19 in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, to possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances and controlled substance analogues and engaging in a monetary transaction in property derived from specified unlawful activity. He faces up to 20 years in prison and fines topping $5 million when he is sentenced April 29. He also is expected to be ordered to forfeit several vehicles and more than $300,000 in cash, according to a preliminary order of forfeiture filed Monday in federal court.