Police Raid Novelty Store

Posted at 11:33 PM, May 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-24 09:37:22-04

MUSKEGON, Mich. – A FOX 17 exclusive investigation led to a police raid at a Muskegon County novelty store.

In February of 2013, FOX 17 spoke with a woman, who doesn’t want to be identified. She said that her boyfriend and child’s father was smoking Bizarro, which is labeled as potpourri.

“I’m ready to get this stuff off the streets. It’s causing a bunch of problems,” she said. “It destroys families.”

She said he buys it at a store called Insani-T’s, located on Henry Street in Muskegon. She contacted FOX 17 because she’s afraid the substance is destroying her family. She said that her friends have become sick and have even been hospitalized after smoking it.

“I don’t want to see my friends hurt. It’s horrible to see,” she said. “I know some people who are addicted and want to stop. It’s just the fact that they know they can still get it. It’s easier to find than marijuana right now.”

The woman said it’s a a form of synthetic marijuana, similar to K2 and Spice, which were banned by Gov. Rick Snyder on July 1, 2012. The substances are a combination of dried herbs or spices, sprayed with unknown chemicals.

FOX 17 wanted to know how easy it is to buy Bizarro, so we went undercover inside Insani-T’s with a hidden camera. The substance, or potpourri, wasn’t out in the open, but after asking the clerk in the backroom if they had any, she reached under the counter and began to offer different “scents”: strawberry, cherry and lemon.  Twenty-one dollars later, we walked out with strawberry Bizarro, in broad daylight.

However, we still needed to find out what’s in Bizarro and if it’s illegal. We took the packet to ARCpoint Labs in Grand Rapids to have it tested. Owner of the lab, Ryan Benkins, said parents are dropping off substances similar to Bizarro on a weekly basis.

“There are literally a thousand different blends,” Benkins said. “The names are catchy. They just make them attractive to younger kids.”

While waiting for the results, we went back to Insani-T’s to confront the manager. He wouldn’t speak to us, but a clerk at the store told us it’s supposed to be used as potpourri and that she hasn’t been told customers are smoking it.  Even the label on the package states “not for human consumption.” It also lists instructions to simmer the potpourri on low heat.

All the while, Gov. Rick Jones, who sponsored the bill signed by Snyder, said business owners and clerks selling these types of chemicals know people are buying them to smoke them.

“You don’t sell something ‘not for human consumption’ knowing everyone walking out the store is going to smoke it,” Jones said.

Jones said owners are finding loopholes to continue selling substances like Bizarro, by altering one of the compounds, making it legal.

However, this time, it wasn’t the case. We picked our test results up and even we were shocked. It tested positive for XLR 11,  a controlled substance.

We contacted Muskegon County prosecutor, DJ Hilson, with our results. He immediately began working with FOX 17 on the investigation. He and his team also went undercover and bought the substance. They even conducted a test of their own.  It also came back positive for XLR11.

The test allowed Hilson to obtain a search warrant on the store. Our cameras were there when police conducted a raid.  Within an hour, we received an update.

“We found some evidence in there and evidence that we already obtained previously from the way that we do our work,” Lieutenant Michael Harvitt, with the Michigan State Police said.

Then, just minutes later, something unexpected happened: a delivery to the store bringing in even more evidence.  It’s not clear what was in the package, but the same box that went in, was brought back out by police.

“There’s obviously something going on here that we don’t like,” Harvitt said. “Something going here that’s a violation of the law.”

Hilson said the store owner is being charged with a felony. He could also serve time in jail.

“This should be a warning to those businesses that are trying to test the waters. Police are investigating synthetic substances,” Hilson said. “We will not hesitate to cooperate with law enforcement and charge those who are selling these substances.”

Hilson said they are still investigating this case.

The woman we spoke to said she hopes Bizarro will be removed from the store for good.

“I hope that it’s all gone. Nobody can get it anymore,” she said. “Things will be safer.