Omaha, NE -- A second day of testimony by a former worker raises questions about the charges against the owner of a so-called “Head shop”. Prosecutors say Exotica stores made thousands of dollars a day selling synthetic marijuana. But was it legal?
48-year-old John Ways Jr. ran most of the Exotica stores in the Omaha, Council Bluffs, Lincoln, and South Sioux City allegedly making millions in just a few years. He was indicted on Selling Drug Paraphernalia, Selling Illegal Synthetic Drugs, Money Laundering, and other charges in US Federal Court. He is the only defendant to go to trial.
In September 2012, federal agents raided the stores taking thousands of water pipes, grinders, and bags of alleged synthetic drugs. The synthetic marijuana, or K-2, was sold as “Herbal Incense."
Rhonda DeCamp, who took a plea deal, testified she ran the South Sioux City store for Ways Jr. She said she ran a strict store kicking out people who mentioned words associated with drug use, and anyone who may have already been high.
The defense played a phone conversation from December 2010 between DeCamp and an Omaha DEA agent. That was when DeCamp ran a “Head Shop” called Whirligigs Emporium in Hastings. She later ran the S. Sioux City store after that.
The agent said, "Anything sold as an herbal incense I can tell you that an attorney probably will not prosecute because you can't control what they were doing when they walk out your door."
The agent told DeCamp if the water pipes didn't have drug residue in them they wouldn't get in trouble.
"If you're selling them (water pipes), you have a legal store. What somebody does when they walk out your door you cannot control," the agent explained.
Joshua wellborn worked at the Council Bluffs store, and also pleaded down. He testified that meth pipes were sold as oil burners, and marijuana pipes were sold as tobacco pipes. Wellborn said he did all kinds of drugs including products sold at Exotica stores, like the herbal incense, and the bath salts.
"Head shops sell products used in an illicit manner, products used for drug use,” Wellborn testified. "It's kind of a junkie's dream to work in a head shop."
Wellborn said Ways Jr. would actually sell him the bath salts.
Decamp didn’t want to comment after her testimony ended.
The trial will continue Friday morning. All other defendants pleaded to Selling Drug Paraphernalia. Frank Firoz, the franchise owner, also pleaded to Money Laundering.