Five owners of Montana stores that sell pipes and other tobacco accessories have been indicted on federal charges of selling drug paraphernalia. David Sil, owner of Missoula's The Vault, which is now closed, and Steve Andriakos, owner of Bozeman's still-open Grateful Shed, were both charged the first week of November. Also charged are Bradford Moore, owner of Kalispell's Heads Up Tobacco Accessories, Francis Mignone of Billings' Bohemian Music Company, and Sue Kerkes of Blue Moon Music in Great Falls.
The charges follow May searches and seizures by Drug Enforcement Agency officials, during which the stores' merchandise was confiscated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Van de Wetering, who's prosecuting all five cases, says the charges could carry up to three years of jail time, a ,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Besides the paraphernalia charges, he says, the government is also seeking forfeiture of proceeds from the businesses.
Attorney Martin Judnich says Sil, who ran The Vault for about a decade, will plead not guilty because he believes he's within the law. Chuck Watson, Andriakos' lawyer, says his client also will plead not guilty when he's arraigned Nov. 22.
Watson says he's heard about similar drug paraphernalia prosecutions around the nation over the last year or so, and he thinks the government is trying to send a message that pipe-selling stores, which have proliferated around the nation for years, are illegal. Van de Wetering says the Montana charges are not part of a larger, nationwide sting. Other stores that market similar goods in Missoula and other Montana cities have not been searched, nor have their owners been charged.
"I think the government is picking our clients out to make an example out of them as it tries to deter the sale of drug paraphernalia," Watson says. "Our clients appear to be unfortunate enough to be among the stores first targeted."