The owners of a Franklin gas station charged with selling synthetic marijuana agreed to pay $88,000, part of which will go to police and prosecutors; but they will get to keep their business.
Nachhattar Singh and his wife, Harinder Kaur, agreed to the settlement in the forfeiture case, in which the city was seeking to take ownership of the businesses, cars and other property that was seized during a December raid. The settlement is among the largest payments ordered in a forfeiture case in the past 20 years, Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper said.
About $40,000 of the settlement is being paid to the Franklin Police Department, while $17,000 will go to the prosecutor’s office. Those funds can be used for new equipment or training for officers or prosecutors who work on drug cases. The remainder, about $31,000, will go toward legal fees.
Police raided the Phillips 66 gas station at 400 E. Jefferson St. after a two-year investigation in which police said workers were selling synthetic marijuana, also known as Spice, at the business.
Singh, Kaur, their adult son Veerpartap Singh and another relative face felony charges of dealing a synthetic drug in the case. Nachhattar Singh, Kaur and Veerpartap Singh have pleaded guilty to charges and have a sentencing hearing set in July.
“We took $88,000 of ill-gotten gains away from some Spice dealer. And whether that goes to the city, or the lawyers we had to hire to do it, or to me, or the police department, it’s not being kept by them,” Cooper said.
Attorneys Dan Vandivier, who represented Singh, and Carrie Miles, who represented Kaur, did not return phone calls on Friday.
The money is being taken out of 11 bank accounts and a safe deposit box that were frozen by a court and ordered to be closed, according to court documents. Singh and Kaur have to make payments of $5,000 to $7,000 every other month starting in June, plus interest of
8 percent on the total. The total amount will be paid in 18 months or less, said attorney Doug Cummins, who represented the city and prosecutor’s office.
The prosecutor’s office recently used some of the money in its forfeiture fund to pay for part of the training cost for a new Indiana State Police drug-sniffing dog, which will be used to search for drugs on interstates, Cooper said.
Franklin police typically use money from forfeiture cases to purchase equipment such as cameras or audio recorders or pay for training for investigators. Franklin Police Chief Tim O’Sullivan was not available Thursday
No property, such as the gas station, its inventory or vehicles, that was seized by police was forfeited in the agreement, Cummins said.
The city originally considered trying to seize the building and gas station property, but the process might have taken two years or longer to resolve, so the idea was dropped, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.
If Franklin owned the gas station, the city could clean up or redevelop the property for some other use, since several business owners have fixed up historic homes and turned them into new shops nearby. The gas station doesn’t mesh well with other shops in the area and had drawn complaints from nearby residents in the past, he said.