On Monday, Federal authorities charged 55 people with trafficking illegal drug paraphernalia in an investigation that targeted the nation's biggest Internet distributors of marijuana bongs, crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia. One of the companies caught up in the sweep is Phoenix based Stone Artworx, who also make glass dildos.
After obtaining indictments, Stone Artworx president Mary Louise Stone, 58, chief executive David V. Stone, and employee Eric M. Rodgers, were arrested as federal authorities seized their glassware factory.
Federal law makes it a crime to sell products mainly intended for the use of illegal drugs, including bongs, marijuana pipes, roach clips, miniature spoons and scales. Though dildos are not illegal, many glass pipe makers have been sidelining as dildo manufactures in recent years. Those charged face up to three years in prison, fines of $250,000 and forfeiture of warehouses, machinery and other property.
"The pipe companies saw us on TV and decided to go into the glass sex toy business and infringe on our patent and are now getting theirs, so we're kind of happy about it," Steve Ritchie of sex toy manufacturer Know Mind Entertainment told AVN.com. Know Mind, who specializes in glass dildos and claims to be the first to patent the popular device, were not indicated in the sweep.
Tony Coulson, assistant special agent in charge for the DEA in Arizona, said Stone Artworx manufactures glassware, mostly drug paraphernalia, out of a 100,000-square-foot building for nationwide sales. He believes these companies have distributed products with relative impunity through head shops that sell drug paraphernalia and on the Internet by claiming the items are flower holders, artworks or designed for other legal uses.
The Stone Artworx raid was one of many coordinated held nationwide on Monday where officials confiscated "thousands and thousands of tons" of paraphernalia from companies boasting up to $50 million in annual sales, said Mary Beth Buchanan, U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh whose office is leading the "Operation Pipe Dreams" investigation along with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The charges were brought in federal grand jury indictments in Pittsburgh against 27 people, in Des Moines, Iowa against nine people and in several other states against 19 others. The investigation stretches from Oregon and California to Texas, Michigan, South Carolina and Pennsylvania.
A search warrant in the accompanying Iowa probe, dubbed "Operation Headhunter," turned up more than $2 million in illegal paraphernalia, authorities said.
The government has also obtained court orders to shut down 11 Internet sites that peddle the paraphernalia, with visitors to those web sites redirected to a DEA site that cites the law against sale of such items. Sites that have been shut down this week include Smokelab.com, Aheadcase.com and puffpipes.com. A visit to Aheadcase.com found this note instead of their normal content: By application of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the website you are attempting to visit has been restrained by the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania pursuant to Title 21, United States Code, Section 853(e)(1)(A).
"Quite simply, the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge," Attorney General John Ashcroft said in a statement.
None of the defendants could be reached for comment.
"This is a devastating blow to the drug paraphernalia business," agreed John Walters, the White House drug czar.
No comment from Ashcroft as to what kind of blow this is to the glass dildo business.
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