Smoke shop owners indicted
Five suspects charged after vaping incidents sent several high school students from Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties to area hospitals have now been indicted by a Fannin County grand jury.
Jigneshkumar R. Patel, his wife Toral Kantilal Patel, Atulkumar Jayan Patel, Bhoomikaben Patel and Lesley Darnell Mulkey are charged in a 23-count, 37-page indictment returned by the November grand jury.
All five are accused in the first count of the indictment with violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for unlawfully conspiring to violate the Georgia Controlled Substances Act and the Dangerous Drug Act, the criminal sale and offering for sale unlawfully recorded material and operating a gambling place.
The first count of the indictment includes the sale of Blaze, Kronic Juice, Gold Drops and tetrahydrocannabinol. The activities are alleged to have taken place at the Citgo on Blue Ridge Drive in Blue Ridge, the A-1 Smoke Shop on Maddox Drive in East Ellijay and the A-1 Smoke Shop on West Church Street in Jasper.
As part of the RICO count, Jigneshkumar Patel is reported to have had $391,586 in accounts in several banks and in a safety deposit box.
The remaining 22 counts of the indictment focus on the activities of Jigneshkumar and Toral Patel at the Citgo in Blue Ridge. Those allegations include seven counts of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, seven counts of possession of a Schedule I controlled substance, one count of distribution of nitrous oxide, one count of distribution of nitrous oxide with intent to distribute, two counts of illegal reproduction of recorded material and two counts of commercial gambling.
Public assistance fraud alleged
The remaining two counts are individual charges against Jisneshkumar Patel, one for illegal reproduction of recorded material and one for fraud in obtaining public assistance.
Kronic Juice, listed in the RICO count of the indictment, was one of the first substances identified that sent 10 high school students from across the Appalachian Judicial Circuit to area hospitals over a five-day period the first week in September.
The incidents set off an intense investigation by the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force in conjunction with District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee’s office and local and state law enforcement agencies.
That investigation led to simultaneous raids at the Citgo and A-1 Smoke Shop locations Sept. 14.
Jigneshkumar Patel, Mulkey, and Atulkumar Patel were arrested at the individual locations at the time of the raids. The arrests of Toral Patel and Bhoomikaben Patel came later.
Jigneshkumar and Toral Patel remain in the Fannin County Detention Center after being denied bond in separate hearings in front of Chief Magistrate Judge Brian Jones.
At the time of their arrests, Jigneshkumar Patel, 44, and Toral Patel, 38, listed their address as 297 Mineral Springs Road, Apt. 106, in Blue Ridge.
The indictment lists Atulkumar and Bhoomikaben Patel’s address as 25 Wesley Lane, Apt. 55 in Blue Ridge. Mulkey’s address is listed at 3718 Tails Creek Road and 106 Hagen Lane, both in Ellijay.