VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A smoke shop is under investigation in Virginia Beach, and another employee had to turn herself into police in connection with selling what authorities consider illegal products related to drug use.
The owner says police are unfairly targeting Papa Joe’s Smoke Shop on South Lynnhaven Road. Police hauled pipes out of the store Thursday. The owner estimates he lost over $100,000 worth of product that is now in police custody.
This is not the first time Papa Joe’s has been investigated, and not the first time they have been in court.
“This is our glass gallery, or was the gallery. We just finished stocking it, and now it is completely empty,” says Papa Joe’s owner Rob Chianelli.
It was a record bad day at Papa Joe’s after police busted the business Thursday. Employee Scott Peterson and five others received summonses for selling drug paraphernalia.
“It took forever for them to show us a warrant,” Peterson says. “When they brought the warrant to us, they slapped it on the table, didn’t give us a copy, or tell us why we were detained.”
The owner says police were heavy-handed, but police say Chianelli had illegal products in his store. 10 On Your Side asked Chianelli why he is selling a product that could be used for illegal drug use.
“Yes it could, but you can buy anything and use it for illegal drugs,” Chianelli responded. “We sell our products for tobacco use only… There are signs that state that… and if anyone talks about drugs they are kicked out of the store.”
The same police detective who handed out summonses Thursday is the same detective who went after Papa Joe’s in 2010. The case went to court. Papa Joe’s lost, then appealed, then lost again. Chianelli says it is classic payback for the past.
“It’s just harassment. At this point, this is the second time in four years they went after us, but no one else.”
WAVY News doesn’t know the extent of the investigation, and Virginia Beach Police Spokesperson Tonya Pierce would only say this:
It’s a criminal investigation. If they have that concern, they are more than welcome to bring it to the attention of our internal affairs.”
10 On Your Side also asked Chianelli why after going through extensive court proceedings before, why would he continue to sell the materials like glass pipes.
“Because everyone else in the city does it, why are we not the ones allowed to do it?” Chianelli asked.
Chianelli says the $100,000 worth of product police took Thursday is the same type of product you can find everywhere.
“You go down to the Oceanfront, gas stations, any smoke shops. They all are selling exactly what was taken out of our store,” he says.
Two owners and four employees are scheduled to appear in court on October 12.