ALE agents seize drug paraphernalia from several Catawba County businesses

CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. — Alcohol Law Enforcement agents executed search warrants on Thursday at several businesses across Catawba County.

Channel 9′s Dave Faherty was there as agents cited workers and removed evidence from places such as the Lucky 3 Food Mart in Hickory and the Catawba Food Store in downtown Catawba.

“I was in the restaurant eating and all of the sudden police officers came from everywhere and just covered the place,” customer Ronald Moore said.

ALE agents told Channel 9 they seized pipes, bowls, scales, grinders and an assortment of bongs valued in the thousands of dollars.

According to investigators, it is not illegal to own any of the items, however, court documents stated that store employees told the undercover agents buying the items that the paraphernalia could be used for drugs.

One instance cited in the warrants stated a clerk told the undercover agent, “I’m sure marijuana will be fine in it,” while selling him a pipe.

Similar undercover purchases led to several of the businesses being cited for permitting the sale of drug paraphernalia for controlled substances.

Store owner Ali Mahmoud told Channel 9 that he sells items for tobacco use, but he doesn’t know what people use them for once they are in the privacy of their own homes.

Agents said all of the merchandise seized from the four businesses will be held until each case goes to court.