Mini-mart owner arrested

West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team (WESTNET) members arrested the owner of an Olalla mini mart on Friday for conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.

John Hong, president of Olalla Food Center, was caught allegedly selling more than 120 boxes of cold medication to just two customers, one of whom was an undercover officer. The medications contained pseudoephedrine, which can be cooked down to make meth.

“It’s something new we’re trying, like taking out the source,” said Sgt. Randy Drake, supervisor of the multi-jurisdictional task force, which includes members from various county and city law enforcement agencies throughout Kitsap County.

“If you don’t have pseudoephedrine, you can’t make meth,” he said.

The law that allows police to arrest store owners who sell large amounts of pseudoephedrine — usually contained in medications such as Sudafed and Actifed — has only been in force since July 22. It prohibits the sale of more than three bottles of cold medication to a single customer per transaction. In fact, Drake said, many large retailers have software packages in their cash registers that pop up a notice if more than three packages are scanned through.

The idea, Drake said, is to cut off the supply lines to neighborhood meth cooks.

“It’s certainly not aimed at the average guy who has a runny nose,” he said.

“It’s specifically aimed at meth (production).”

This is the first arrest of a retailer WESTNET has made since the law was enacted. However, it’s won’t be the last. Drake said the department has several more busts lined up that they want to get done before the end of the month.

Kitsap County was sixth in the state in meth lab raids last year, and Drake said he’s looking to bring that number down by focusing on the supply chain. Retailers are now required to report unusually large orders of cold medication — that’s actually how the sheriffs department got tipped off on the Olalla store.

“These aren’t the easiest investigations in the world to do,” Drake said. “It’s an uphill battle.”

Hong was arraigned in Kitsap County Superior Court on Monday. A hearing date had not been set as of press time.

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