OFF THE WIRE
By LISA COSTON
ATLANTA (CN) - A gas station franchisee sold more than chips and soda at his convenience store - he sold "relaxation brownies" with synthetic marijuana, and after the store was busted, he swiped sales revenue for himself, along with the store's alcohol and tobacco inventory, RaceTrac Petroleum says.
RaceTrac sued its former franchisee, Eric Banks, of Shreveport, and his former outlet, New United Petroleum Enterprises (NUPE), of Ruston, about 68 miles east of Shreveport.
RaceTrac claims Banks breached his agreement by "among other things, selling illegal drugs in violation of Louisiana law, failing to pay rent, and failing to perform various obligations required by the parties' agreements."
Louisiana outlawed synthetic marijuana on July 15 this year. It's made from "a mixture of herbs and spices and sprayed with a compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana," Atlanta-based RaceTrac says in its complaint in Cobb County Court.
The Lincoln Parish Narcotics Enforcement Team busted two of Banks' employees after twice buying the "relaxation brownies" over the counter at the store, RaceTrac says.
The narcotics team made its first buy at the store on July 22: "No arrests were made. However, the LPNET informed NUPE that the sale of synthetic marijuana was illegal and that law enforcement would be checking the store from time to time to determine if NUPE was selling illegal products," the complaint states.
The busts came on Oct. 6, when the narcotics team executed search warrants at five businesses in Ruston, including the RaceTrac outlet. "The LPNET arrested two NUPE employees and as a result, NUPE closed the store for several hours," according to the complaint.
"The synthetic marijuana was packaged under the names 'Cush,' 'Blubonic Chronic,' 'Dank,' 'High Times,' 'New Dimension,' 'White Rabbit,' and 'Voodoo Spice.' The seized marijuana was hanging on display behind the counter as well as being stored under the counter," the complaint states.
"In addition to synthetic marijuana and related invoices, the LPNET also seized boxes of an illegal product known as 'relaxation brownies,' packaged under the name 'Kush Cake.'"
That very day, RaceTrac says, it terminated its lease agreement and demanded immediate possession of the outlet, in a message hand-delivered to Banks. Also that day, it says, Banks "removed valuable inventory comprising part of the collateral in which plaintiff has a security interest ... For example and without limitation, defendants removed tobacco products and alcohol."
RaceTrac says that on Oct. 9 Banks promised to surrender the store to it, but changed his mind and told it the next day he refused to leave.
RaceTrac says it locked the pumps and stopped delivering gas to the store, which has damaged it.
It claims Banks and NUPE sold gas from Oct. 4 to 6, and diverted the money rather than putting it into a RaceTrac bank account, and that on Oct. 11, Banks withdrew all the money in the account: $4,748.03.
RaceTrac seeks compensatory and punitive damages for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, conversion and breach of fiduciary duty.
It has initiated eviction proceedings against NUPE. An expedited hearing is set for Nov. 21.
RaceTrac is represented by Michael French with Wargo & French.
RaceTrac is a privately held chain of more than 500 gas station-convenience stores, across the Southeast United States.