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Fragrance Hut owner charged with distributing synthetic marijuana

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The owner of Fragrance Hut was charged Friday for storing and distributing synthetic drugs from the store after undercover officers purchased packets of “Purple Diesel,” which tested positive for synthetic marijuana.

Matthew McCauley, 39, was charged with one count of maintaining a drug-involved premises during an initial appearance Friday in U.S. District Court. He is accused of storing and distributing synthetic cannabinoids for the purpose of human consumption from his business, Fragrance Hut, 2902 First Ave NE, in February through March, according to the criminal complaint.

It described a traffic stop by Cedar Rapids police officers on March 11 for a traffic violation. Police found 63 packets of synthetic marijuana in the car, according to the complaint. The driver told police he worked at the Fragrance Hut and his boss, McCauley, told him to take the items home in case the business was burglarized. Several of the packets sent to the crime lab tested positive for synthetic drugs.

A few weeks later, two undercover officers purchased packets of “Purple Haze” and “Purple Diesel,” alleged synthetic drugs, from the Fragrance Hut, according to the complaint. A customer told the officer “Purple Diesel is unbelievable” and suggested they buy it if they had $30. The officers purchased that packet and another. The “Purple Diesel” tested positive for a controlled substance.

According to the complaint, police officers responded to the Econo Lodge on 33rd Avenue SW, the next day, regarding a person in one of the rooms acting strange and destroying his room. The room was occupied by McCauley, who had an outstanding warrant, and he invited the officers inside and they arrested him.

McCauley had a fraudulent driver’s license and $1,245 in cash on him, according to the complaint. He told police he owned the Fragrance Hut, a store he described as selling “herbal incense.” The officers collected a bag McCauley had with him which contained multiple packages of synthetic drugs, two prescription pill bottles with two plastic bags of methamphetamine, along with 47 oxycodone and 17 hydrocodone pills. Neither pill was listed on McCauley’s prescription bottles.

A trial date hasn’t been set at this time.