OCEAN CITY – Two Boardwalk businesses are facing a 10-day suspension, effective Friday, following the arrest of the owner and employees due to an undercover operation revealing the sale of illegal synthetic drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Last month’s raids were conducted on OC Cool Topics Inc., which is the holder of the three business licenses that were subject to a license suspension hearing held last Friday, June 1.
OC Cool Topic Inc. operates two stores on the Boardwalk — Cool Topic, which contains two neighboring properties and two business licenses, and New York, New York.
According to the Finding of Facts signed by Mayor/Interim City Manager Rick Meehan, the raids were a result of complaints received by the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) alleging the sale of purported controlled dangerous substances at each of the locations and the OCPD in cooperation with the State’s Attorney for Worcester County began an investigation into the businesses.
On May 21, States Attorney Beau Oglesby and OCPD Lieutenants Mark Pacini and Ray Austin visited the business locations where they observed a number of items of merchandise being offered for sale which they considered under state law and local ordinance to be drug paraphernalia and items marketed as substances that would produce a physical or physiological effect or would “get you high.”
Last year, the town of Ocean City passed an ordinance banning the sale and possession of various types of synthetic forms of marijuana such as K2 and bath salts, for example, after passing a ban on the similar substance Salvia in 2010 after the prevalence of the cannabimimetic and hallucinogenic agents spiked in the resort area.
OC Cool Topics Inc. is owned by David Lougasi, 52, of Berlin, and operated with the assistance of his son, Nitzan Lougasi, 27, of Ocean City, who have both been warned several times over the past six years to stop selling such items.
On May 25 around 7:30 p.m. David Lougasi,, Nitzahn Lougasi, Teodras Masresha Kassa, 22, of Ocean City; and Haileleul Mulugeta, 21, of Silver Spring, Md., were arrested after the two Boardwalk stores were raided.
The stores were raided after employees at the two establishments allegedly sold synthetic marijuana and drug paraphernalia to undercover OCPD narcotics officers on different occasions that same day.
According to police reports, employees at the two raided stores told undercover narcotics officers that the products would get them high, instructed them on how to get high, what devices to use to smoke the synthetic drugs and marijuana, and even how long the anticipated high would last.
During the raids law enforcement officials seized over 500 bags of suspected synthetic marijuana and hundreds of other pieces of drug paraphernalia along with a computer.
The final decision made on June 1 at the license suspension hearing was that the licenses for New York, New York, and Cool Topics 3 would be suspended for 10 days starting on Friday, June 8. This would result in two weekends of sales lost. Also, the second business license for Cool Topics 4 was fined $1,000.
The decision section of the Findings of Fact stated, “The licenses for the business New York New York and Cool Topics 3 are hereby suspended for 10 days on each charge concurrently commencing at 9 a.m. Friday, June 8, 2012 and the licensee for business Cool Topics 4 is fined $1,000 to be paid by June 8 2012 The difference in the penalties in this case is warranted because there was no evidence or testimony supporting any conversation between the police and employees in Store No 4 which is one of the determinating factors.”
According to Ocean City’s code, the city manager may suspend a business license for a period of time not to exceed 30 days if the city manager determines that a licensee or an employee of a licensee has committed an offense under law or ordinance regulating business, a crime involving moral turpitude, or an unlawful sale of merchandise or prohibited goods, along with other acts.
Following the hearing, the licensee may appeal the decision of the city manager to the City Council by filing the request with the city clerk no later than 10 days after receiving notice of the suspension.
No request made by the Lougasi’s to appeal the suspension has been made as of this morning. Since the suspension is scheduled to begin Friday, a hearing would have to be held by Wednesday or Thursday if the businesses file an appeal.
The Dispatch will be following this story and provide an update as information becomes available.