Cops claim shop sold paraphernalia for illegal drug use
Armed with search warrants, police on Saturday, Aug. 8, seized about three-quarters of the shop’s merchandise and hauled it away. The business allegedly was selling drug paraphernalia and “obscene devices” from its location in a shopping center at Cotter Avenue and Cut-off Road, according to a news release from the Port Aransas Police Department, the agency that conducted the search.
The shop’s owner, Yehoram “Ronny” Maymon, declined comment. No one has been arrested, and no arrest warrants exist, said Port Aransas Police Chief Scott Burroughs.
Asked if he expects arrests to take place later, Burroughs said, “It’s yet to be determined. We certainly have evidence of criminal activity, but whether or not the state decides to proceed, whether we wish to proceed and who we’re going to file on is yet to be determined. It’s up to the district attorney’s office.”
Burroughs said his department is working with prosecutors to answer some of those questions. He said he hopes for some decisions within the next week.
Two search warrants were signed on Friday, Aug. 7, by Tom Greenwell, judge of the 319th District Court in Corpus Christi.
One warrant alleges “that the business was illegally selling obscene devices in violation of Texas obscenity laws,” according to the news release.
The other warrant alleged that the shop “was selling illegal drug paraphernalia,” the release said.
Both offenses are Class A misdemeanors and can be punished by up to one year in county jail or a fine up to $4,000, or both.
The business, which opened its doors March 15, had hundreds of bongs and other smoking accessories as its chief merchandise. Maymon repeatedly has said in the past that his products are for tobacco use only, and signs posted throughout his shop emphasize that point.
Many residents, on the other hand, see the merchandise as drug paraphernalia and have complained to the Port Aransas City Council. The council in April passed a resolution decrying the kind of business done by the shop, but the measure didn’t carry the power to shut the business down.
A group of citizens circulated a petition around town, supporting the council’s resolution and encouraging enforcement of drug laws and laws against under-age drinking. The petition reportedly ended up with more than 300 signatures.
City Attorney Mike Morris in April told the council that it likely would be difficult, legally, to mount a successful drug paraphernalia prosecution against Maymon or anyone working in his shop.
Also at that time, Burroughs said the shop did not appear to be breaking any laws. An object that arguably has a legitimate function, such as tobacco use, cannot automatically be labeled drug paraphernalia just because it also can be used for taking drugs too, Burroughs said. That means prosecutions for possessing bongs is hard, unless a bong is found with a drug, he said.
The police news release didn’t say specifi cally what police more recently have found to make prosecution a possibility. However, it did state that, generally, “in order to obtain a search warrant, police must demonstrate to a judge that probable cause exists that the person that owned or sold the items knew that the buyer intended to use the items for an illegal purpose.”
The release continued: “Difficulties in conducting this type of an investigation are often compounded in small communities such as Port Aransas, because the targets of the investigations are often reminded by well-intentioned citizens that their business practices are under constant scrutiny.”
In an interview, Burroughs wouldn’t discuss what allegedly happened at Happy Days that seemed to demonstrate probable cause.
“I really don’t want to go into investigative tactics, because there are other businesses that are kind of operating in the fringe,” the chief said.
Asked if searches are coming soon at other Port Aransas businesses, Burroughs said, “Certainly, if we find evidence … businesses are operating outside the law, we will conduct an investigation and, if appropriate, make arrests.” He wouldn’t elaborate.
Burroughs said it wasn’t council anger or citizen pressure that prompted the Happy Days investigation.
“There really has to be an illegal activity before we can take any type of action,” the chief said. “Certainly, (the shop) was in the forefront of public discussion a period of time, but we were already aware of that business and others that sell some questionable merchandise, and we’re not going to base our decisions on anything other than what the law will allow us to do.”
Officers entered the business when it opened at 10 a.m. Saturday, the news release said. No force was used. Maymon cooperated with officers.
Police spent several hours in the shop, boxing merchandise and taking it away.
As for items deemed to be illegal “obscene devices,” police seized a couple of dozen vibrators, Burroughs said.
The devices are considered to be contraband under an obscenity statute because of the manner in which they were sold, Burroughs said.
“Mere possession of them is not necessarily criminal, but when you’ve got six or more, with intent to retail them as sex devices, then they become illegal,” Burroughs said.
Among suspected drug paraphernalia seized by police was 202 metal pipes, more than 100 bongs and 62 scales.
Officers also confiscated six “kits,” each of which contained a razor, spoon, straw and a mirror – objects commonly associated with cocaine use.
Police reported no confiscations of drugs.
The shop has been closed since police conducted the search, but Burroughs said it’s not under police orders to remain closed.
On Tuesday, Aug. 11, a handwritten, undated sign on the door said, “Sorry … we’re on vacation. Be back in a week.”