Police seize drugs, cash in raid

2 booked into prison on drug charges

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD --Baton Rouge police seized more than 23 pounds of synthetic marijuana and about $12,500 in cash during a drug bust earlier this month at Joker's Novelty Store in Baton Rouge.
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD --Baton Rouge police seized more than 23 pounds of synthetic marijuana and about $12,500 in cash during a drug bust earlier this month at Joker's Novelty Store in Baton Rouge.

Baton Rouge police seized more than 23 pounds of synthetic marijuana and about $12,500 in cash during a drug raid recently at a novelty store on O’Neal Lane, according to police documents.

In addition to nearly 5,000 packs of synthetic marijuana — 10,600 grams worth — and the cash recently discovered at Joker’s Novelty Store in the 1900 block of O’Neal Lane, authorities also seized a handgun, a digital scale, documentation from the store and video surveillance, according to a search warrant.

After the raid, police booked Julie Tran, 35, and Son Tran, 43, both of 6654 Antioch Crossing, Baton Rouge, into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on counts of possession with intent to distribute synthetic marijuana and possession of a firearm with controlled dangerous substances, according to affidavits of probable cause.

Son Tran was also booked on counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, an affidavit says.

Business filings with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office list Julie Tran as the owner of Joker Novelty LLC on O’Neal Lane.

Attempts to reach Julie Tran and Son Tran on Sunday were unsuccessful, and police documents do not specify whether the two are related.

A police spokesman declined comment Sunday about the arrests.

Police first followed up on a tip by sending an undercover detective to the store three days in a row — Sept. 4-6 — where he successfully purchased different varieties and amounts of synthetic marijuana each time, the warrant says.

On Sept. 4, the detective purchased 10 grams of “Extreme Kush” for $55, the warrant says. Similar purchases took place over the next two days when the detective purchased 3 grams of “Phoenix” for $22 and 1.5 grams of “Dynamite Extreme,” the warrant says.

“The suspected synthetic cannabinoids was found to contain the banned substances, which make this a Schedule 1 narcotics,” the warrant says.

During the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill, which went into effect Aug. 1, that widened the scope of what constitutes synthetic marijuana, a move many in the law enforcement community at the time said was long overdue.

State lawmakers have previously banned several forms of synthetic cannabinoids, but manufacturers of “fake pot” and similar drugs have sidestepped the law by modifying the chemical compositions they use, law enforcement officials said previously.

Synthetic drugs, which can trigger psychosis and a host of other adverse health effects, have become more popular among young people in recent years, causing growing concern among law enforcement and public health officials.