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Iowa Attorney General Plans Fraud Charges in Synthetic Drug Lawsuits

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- In what he called a first-of-its-kind consumer fraud lawsuit in Iowa, Attorney General Tom Miller has filed suit against two Des Moines convenience store owners over the sales of synthetic drugs.

Iowa's consumer fraud law is a favorite tool for Miller because it allows his office to recover the proceeds of fraudulent activities, impose civil penalties and obtain temporary and permanent injunctions against the activity.

Iowa laws ban specific formulas of synthetic drugs, and all chemicals that are structural derivatives or synthetic equivalents of the banned chemicals. However, manufacturers have attempted to skirt the laws by altering the formulations of synthetic substances every time federal or state laws are amended to designate a new formulation as an illegal controlled substance, Miller said.

"We hope this civil case will send a clear message to Iowa retailers that we're ready to do battle, and that selling synthetic drugs isn't worth the safety risk to your customers or the legal risk to you," Miller said.

Miller called the sale of synthetic drugs a "sort of quasi bait-and-switch" because they are labeled not fit for human consumption, "but everybody knows that's the whole purpose."

"We owe it to parents of teenagers who tend to buy synthetic drugs to do what we can to fight the problem, and that's what we're doing through a new civil law enforcement route," he said.

Miller was joined at the news conference by state and local law enforcement as well as Mike and Jan Rozga, whose 18-year-old son, David, committed suicide after smoking K2, synthetic marijuana.
Mike Rozga offered his gratitude and encouragement for the new approach to combating synthetic drugs.

"It's taken a team of many people, many departments through state and local government to get to this point over the course of a few years," he said. "We want to encourage them to continue their hard work."

The attorney general's use of the Iowa consumer fraud law is "another tool for our agents and troopers," said Department of Public Safety Director Larry Noble.

Des Moines Police Major Dana Wingert called it "disturbing" that the target market is teenagers and young adults, "who presumably are largely unaware of the associated risks and dangers due to the various chemical compositions and unpredictable reactions."

"Let's call these drugs what they are -- they're street drug knock-offs," said Steve Lukan, director of the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy.

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