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Sting Nails Online Pot Dealer

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
People rent apartments online, and buy used cars.

And at least one person, according to charges Somerset County officials brought against a South Jersey man, was attempting to sell illegal drugs.

A 27-year-old from Springfield Township, Burlington County, was arraigned yesterday on charges of distributing marijuana and hash ish, after he allegedly offered drugs for sale to undercover Somerset County detectives on the Internet classified site craigslist.org.

"I think criminals have expanded the use of the Internet," said Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne Forrest. "Many of these things (Web sites) have a good, legitimate purpose. Other people look for some way to perpetrate crime."

John P. Scott, of Jacksonville Road in Springfield, Burlington County, was arraigned in Superior Court yesterday and lodged in the Somerset County jail on $10,000 bail, Forrest said. He is charged with three counts of distributing marijuana and one count of distributing hashish.

The investigation into the al leged drug sales, part of an effort dubbed "Operation Cyber-Vice" by the prosecutor's office, began two months ago when a Montgomery Township detective found a classified ad, allegedly for marijuana, on craigslist.com.

"Hello, I have 420 shrubs for sale. They are from Arizona and have a very nice pungent smell and citrus-like flower," the ad read. "Available by the quarter-acre plot for 60, half-acre plot for 100 and whole-acre plot for 180. Also would consider BARTERING for finer shrubs." It was signed "Juan, Loca tion near Trenton, NJ," and repeated the number "fourtwenty."

The detective recognized "420" as a 1970s reference to marijuana, according to a press release from the prosecutor's office. That numeral is believed to refer to a time of day when students at San Rafael High School, in California, met to smoke the drug in 1971, and it has evolved into a symbol of the marijuana culture, Forrest said.

An undercover investigation began.

Detectives from the prosecutor's office and Montgomery police contacted Scott through craigslis t.org, and arranged to meet him at a restaurant parking lot in Montgomery. Three times, in late August and early September, Scott sold police marijuana or hashish, according to the press release. After a sale on Wednesday, Scott was arrested and search warrants were executed on his vehicle and home.

Police seized a computer, which will undergo a forensic examination.

Investigators across the country have begun using the Internet to solve crimes, tracking sexual predators on the Web, or combing social networking sites for links to sus pects in crimes ranging from brutal murders in Newark to cases of underage drinking.

In Somerset, Forrest said police departments periodically search for alleged illegal activity online when they have time.

"This is the computer age," said Montgomery Township Police Di rector Michael Beltranena. "We uti lize any and all resources we can."

The prosecutor's office also announced yesterday that in April it had uncovered a brothel, in Branchburg, advertising "sensual" and "erotic" massages on craigslis t.org. Three people were arrested at First Class Massage in Branch burg; two pleaded guilty to disorderly persons prostitution, and one to disorderly conduct, the prosecutor said.

No charges were brought in either case against craigslist, which was founded in 1995 in the San Francisco Bay area and has become one of the most used classified sites online.

"Whenever we have time, we're out there doing it, and it's paying off," Forrest said. "I don't mean to focus on craigslist, it just so happens these two cases involve craigslist."

A spokesperson for the Web site could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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