Ex-Limerick smoke shop operator has probation for drug paraphernalia sales

NORRISTOWN >> A Spring City man who once operated a Limerick smoke shop must serve probation and community service after a jury convicted him of selling and advertising drug paraphernalia.

Craig Hennesy, 49, of the 100 block of Bridge Street, was sentenced in Montgomery County Court to one year of probation on charges of possession with intent to deliver drug paraphernalia and advertisement of drug paraphernalia in connection with a July 2016 incident at Piper’s Smoke Shop, which was located in the 100 block of West Ridge Pike in Limerick.

Judge Gary S. Silow said the sentence includes “non-reporting probation,” which means Hennesy will not be required to meet with probation officials in person on a regular basis during the period of supervision.

However, the judge said Hennesy also must complete 50 hours of community service as a condition of the sentence.

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A jury convicted Hennesy of the charges at a trial last November, during which jurors observed the bongs, glass pipes and grinders that were seized from the Limerick smoke shop.

During the trial, Assistant District Attorney Evan Correia argued the items seized from the store constituted drug paraphernalia and that Hennesy knew or should have known that his customers, primarily college students, were going to be using the items to smoke marijuana or to store marijuana. Correia argued Hennesy also advertised the items on his website.

Hennesy did not testify during the trial but his lawyer Christopher Mandracchia argued the items seized from the store were used for legitimate purposes, to smoke tobacco, and that Hennesy was selling the items to tobacco users.

Limerick Police Sgt. Paul Marchese alleged he spoke with Hennesy by telephone on July 25, 2016, ahead of the store’s August opening.

“Mr. Hennesy stated he heard that Montgomery County was cracking down on head shops and that a few head shops have been charged with selling smoking pipes. I explained to Mr. Hennesy that glass pipes, water pipes (bongs) and grinders were all considered illegal drug paraphernalia,” Marchese wrote in the arrest affidavit.

Hennesy allegedly told Marchese that 50 percent of his projected sales would come from glass pipes and water pipes and that the other sales would consist of T-shirts and other merchandise. Hennesy allegedly told Marchese he would display signs that said all items were to be used with tobacco.

“Hennesy further stated that he has $100,000 worth of merchandise inventory,” Marchese wrote in the arrest affidavit.

“Through my training and experience I know that these glass and metal smoking pipes are commonly used to smoke marijuana. I know that the grinders are commonly used to shred marijuana prior to smoking,” Marchese added.

Limerick authorities noticed that on Aug. 8 Piper’s Smoke Shop was open for business.

On Aug. 10 an undercover police officer went to the store and observed “display cases full of glass pipes and bongs in various shapes and sizes” and various storage containers for concealing illegal drugs or paraphernalia, according to court papers. At that time, Hennesy advised the undercover officer to read a sign that indicated that the products are intended for tobacco use, according to court papers.

The undercover officer purchased a so-called “one hitter,” a fake cigar-type pipe “designed for a single inhalation or hit,” according to the criminal complaint.

On Aug. 29, an informant working with police went to the store and purchased a grinder and two packs of rolling papers, according to court documents.

On Aug. 31, armed with a search warrant, Limerick and county detectives went to the shop and seized more than 900 smoking pipes and 200 bongs, the type commonly used to smoke marijuana, according to the criminal complaint. Also seized were 170 bong mouthpieces, 70 grinders, 25 scales and 20 concealing storage containers, detectives said.

Correia showed the jury about two dozen of the multi-colored items during the trial.

The Limerick store has since closed.

But during the course of the investigation, detectives discovered Hennesy owned two additional Piper’s Smoke Shops in Chester County, according to court documents.