Pubdate: Mon, 24 Feb 2003
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2003 Associated Press
Author: Curt Anderson, Associated Press


WASHINGTON - Federal authorities charged 55 people Monday with trafficking 
in illegal drug paraphernalia from coast to coast, using both traditional 
stores and the Internet.

A federal grand jury in western Pennsylvania handed up indictments against 
27 people as part of "Operation Pipe Dreams," an investigation stretching 
from Pittsburgh to Phoenix to southern California, Attorney General John 
Ashcroft said.

Another nine people were charged in four grand jury indictments returned in 
Des Moines, Iowa, under "Operation Headhunter," which involved 
paraphernalia marketed nationwide by distributors in Michigan, California 
and Texas.

In all, 55 people were named in nearly three dozen indictments returned 
throughout the country.

Federal law makes it a crime to sell products mainly intended for the use 
of illegal drugs, including such things as bongs, marijuana pipes, "roach" 
clips, miniature spoons and scales. Those charged with selling and 
conspiring to sell such items face up to three years on prison and maximum 
fines of $250,000.

A search warrant in the Iowa case turned up more than $2 million in illegal 
paraphernalia, authorities said.

Ashcroft said the sale of drug paraphernalia has exploded on the Internet, 
making it easier for teenagers and young adults to buy it. The items often 
are disguised as such things as lipstick cases to escape detection and are 
marketed under code names and symbols.

"Quite simply, the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has invaded the 
homes of families across the country without their knowledge," Ashcroft 
said in a statement. "This illegal, billion-dollar industry will no longer 
be ignored by law enforcement."

The Internet sites go by such names as, and, according to the Justice Department.

The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration along with 
the U.S. Marshals, Secret Service, Customs Service and Postal Inspection 

"People selling drug paraphernalia are in essence no different than drug 
dealers," said John Brown, acting DEA chief. "They are as much a part of 
drug trafficking as silencers are a part of criminal homicide."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom