ST. GEORGE – The Washington County Drug Task Force arrested six people on various drug-related charges over the past week. On Thursday, four people were arrested by the task force for intent to distribute meth after a traffic stop led to a drug bust. On Wednesday two search warrants executed at a local smoke shop resulted in the arrest of the shop’s owner for spice. Monday also yielded a drug-related arrest.
Court documents did not connect any of the arrests to the eight arrests that took place in Washington County Wednesday as part of Operation Spice Trash, Utah’s portion of a national spice distribution crackdown.
Four busted for intent to distribute
On Thursday, detectives with the county drug task force pulled over a silver Ford F-150 with three occupants – the driver, Amber Turney, 23, of St. George, and two passengers, Josh Samson, 24, of St. George, and Josh Blake, 18, of Ivins. Blake was determined to have several active warrants out for his arrest.
According to court documents, the detectives approached the vehicle and had the occupants roll down all of the windows of the truck. When the rear windows were open, detectives “could smell the order of burnt marijuana.” The detectives also observed possible drug paraphernalia in the truck’s cab.
One of the detectives then asked Blake if he was Josh Blake. Blake first denied he was then responded affirmatively. He was asked to step out of the truck and advised of the warrants out for his arrest. Turney was also asked to exit the vehicle. According to documentation, Turney was discovered to have alleged drug paraphernalia on her person.
A search of the vehicle turned up a “distributable amount” of methamphetamine kept in a plastic Jack-in-the-Box cup that was located on the floor of the cab next to where Blake had been sitting. A leafy substance suspected to be marijuana was also discovered.
After the search and being read their rights, Turney, Samson and Blake each admitted to smoking marijuana in the truck. Turney also said she knew about the meth kept in the cup by Blake, and that she had driven him to Las Vegas and back with it. Blake, who also said Turney and Samson knew what he was transporting, also said he was bringing the meth back to St. George to hand off to his partner, Tyler Oliphant, 20, of Santa Clara, with the purpose of selling it to others.
A meeting was then arranged between Blake and Oliphant. Oliphant was taken into custody and read his rights and told detectives he and Blake were partners in distributing meth, and that Blake had used his connection in Las Vegas to acquire the drug.
Both men were arrested and have been charged with second-degree felony intent to distribute narcotics. Blake has also been charged with drug and warrant-related misdemeanors.
Samson and Turney were charged with second-degree felony intent to distribute narcotics, as well as a number of drug-related class B misdemeanors.
Smoke shop owner arrested for spice distribution
Earrings and More Smoke Shop was the site of two search warrants executed by the Washington County Drug Task Force Wednesday. According to court documents, the owner of the shop, Susan Russell, 61, of St. George, was found to be in possession of several packets of “zero gravity.” Packets of the substance had previously been part of a “controlled purchase” and had been sent to the Utah Crime Lab for testing. Test results determined the substance to be illegal.
Russell told a member of the task force that she had owned the smoke shop for 15 years and had been previously investigated and asked about spice. She said the “zero gravity” she sold was not spice, but potpourri only. She said she had no knowledge of people buying the packets in order to smoke their contents. She also produced a document that she alleged was a lab test showing that the substance she sold was legal under Utah law.
Russell was arrested on a count of third-degree felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
Search warrant yields drug arrest
A search warrant was executed at a home in St. George Monday where it was believed marijuana was being sold. The task force found a total of six people at the home and detained them. While searching the home, a safe was found in one of the bedrooms. According to a court document, Devry Laing, 27, was identified as the primary resident of the home.
Laing was read his rights and asked what was in the safe. He told a task force member the safe contained some cannabis/marijuana and hashish. Two jars and a medicine bottle containing these substances were found in the safe once it was open. Drug paraphernalia was also found during the search.
Laing was charged with third-degree felony drug possession and a class A and a class B misdemeanor for drug possession and drug paraphernalia.
Ed. Note: Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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