JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The owners of the Smoker’s Video stores that were raided by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office last month have been released from jail.
Greg and Lauri Burris were among 13 people arrested in an investigation into the distribution of synthetic drugs. The couple is also charged with racketeering.
Greg Burris had a bond hearing Thursday in which he had to prove his bail money was not derived from a criminal enterprise. He then posted $500,000 bond. Lauri Burris was released on $100,000 bond. Both had to surrender their passports.
The couple is scheduled for arraignment next week.
Operation Chain Smokers leads to raids
The raids at the stores on Beach Boulevard, Emerson Street and Normandy Boulevard involved synthetic drugs, like Spice or K2.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said the investigation, dubbed Operation Chain Smokers, began in the Spring of 2013 when Alcohol, Beverage and Tobacco agents and St. Johns County deputies worked a case on a synthetic drug manufacturer with known ties to Smoker's Video.
In Fall 2013, JSO detectives began making undercover buys of synthetic drugs from Smoker's Video retail outlets in Jacksonville, Williams said. He said that investigation stemmed from dozens of complaints from Jacksonville citizens.
“I encourage them to continue to call when things are suspicious or look out of hand,” Williams said. “That really was the catalyst for some of the initial looks at this case.”
The operation grew under the umbrella of the North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Initiative and revealed a synthetic drug distribution ring, Williams said.
Teen's death connected to drug raids
The death of a 16-year-old Clay County boy in October was connected to the ongoing synthetic drug investigation that led to the raids, Williams said.
Matthew Purdy died at Ronnie Van Zant Memorial Park in Green Cove Springs from an apparent allergic reaction. He had purchased and ingested synthetic marijuana from a Smoker's Video store, Williams said at a news conference.
The Medical Examiner later determined Matthew's death was caused by the chemical compound in a synthetic drug known as “Sunshine.” A witness told police that Matthew bought the drugs at the Smoker's Video store on Normandy Boulevard hours before he died.
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One of the owners listed for Smoker's Video, Ronald Brown Jr., has been charged with manslaughter in Matthew's death, Williams said. He wasn't captured the day of the raids but later turned himself in.