remove inventory from six businesses owned by Barmes
Debbie Schmidtknecht, Staff Writer
A U.S. postal
inspector enters Barmes Wholesale Monday afternoon after an early
morning raid by Vincennes Police and drug enforcement agents.
VSC Online Photo by Kevin J. Kilmer.
this morning began loading inventory into semi-trailers from six
businesses owned by Vincennes businessman Marvin Barmes.
Vincennes Police Chief Robert Dunham said that items considered to be
drug paraphernalia are being confiscated by agents of the federal Drug
Enforcement Agency. Other items were not being removed, he said.
Barmes allegedly is in violation of a federal law which prohibits the
sale of, and offering for sale, drug paraphernalia, Dunham said.
However, Barmes has not been arrested and as of noon today Barmes has
not been charged with any crime.
Dunham said a DEA agent in Pennsylvania discovered what he considered
illegal activity while working a case in Pittsburgh. He was working a
drug case when he discovered an invoice from Barmes Wholesale. The DEA
has been working with Dunham for the past 2 1/2 months to secure search
warrants on Barmesī property.
DEA officers arrived here Monday and issued 11 search warrant on all
businesses owned by Barmes as well as his home and the houses of his
grown children who work with the family business. U.S. Customs agents
also are involved because the drug paraphernalia was allegedly shipped
through the mail.
An affadavit for probable cause was filed by the Pittsburgh office of
the DEA, which allowed agents to enter and remove items they believe are
in violation of federal law, provided search warrants are issued.
Barmes owns Barmes Wholesale, 114 Main St., where there is a shipping
department; Barmes Woodworking and Cabinets, 24 N. First St.; and
Barbaraīs Gift Shop, 120 Main St. He also is associated with Second
Sight Wholesale (formerly Wannabeez Gift Shop), 119 N. Second St.
The search warrants were obtained from a federal judge by the
Philadelphia Field Division of the DEA, Pittsburgh District Office,
Dunham said. The businesses have allegedly been shipping drug
paraphernalia to Pennsylvania which is in violation of federal law.
Bruce Teitelbaum, an assistant U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh, said it
is a federal crime for anyone to sell or to offer for sale drug
paraphernalia across state lines. It also is illegal for a person to use
the U.S. Postal Service or any other means to ship drug paraphernalia,
While it is not illegal in Indiana to have drug paraphernalia, it is
illegal in Pennsylvania, Teitelbaum said. It is against the law to have
drug paraphernalia in Indiana if it contains illegal substances.
Federal authorities are expected to take four or five semitractors
full of Barmesī business merchandise back to Pittsburgh where they will
be reviewed. Computers and any paperwork also will be reviewed at to see
if criminal charges will be filed, Dunham said.
The penalty for selling or offering for sale drug paraphernalia can
be up to three years in prison for each count, Teitelbaum said.
Federal statute defines drug paraphernalia as "any equipment, product
or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use
in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing,
processing, preparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling or otherwise
introducing into the human body a controlled substance prohibited by
Acrylic, glass, stone, ceramic, wood and water pipes are considered
drug paraphernalia, Teitelbaum said. So are carbonation tubes, smoking
or carbonation masks, roach clips, "coke" spoons, chamber pipes, bongs,
air-driven pipes (come with fans), wired cigarette papers and cocaine
Some of the controlled substances being ingested into the body using
these methods are marijuana, cocaine, hashish, PCP and methamphetamine,
When considering whether an item is drug paraphernalia, federal
investigators look at whether oral or written instructions are given as
to how to use the product, if there is national or local advertising,
and whether the owner of the business supplying the product also sells
tobacco for smoking, Teitelbaum said.
'surprised' by DEA search; cash seized from home
By Debbie Schmidtknecht, Staff Writer
Vincennes businessman Marvin Barmes was surprised to be awakened Monday
morning by 25 federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officers, but wasnīt
shocked when they took his money.
"For a while I thought I was being held up by a bunch of hoodlums,"
Barmes said this morning from his home on Overhead Road near Fritchton.
"They wouldnīt show me a badge or tell me their names."
The DEA officers were armed with weapons and a search warrant but
Barmes said he was not allowed to see the search warrant until officers
"The guy told me he would put it (the search warrant) on the table
and I could see it when they were done," Barmes said.
When Barmes was able to look at the federally-issued document, he was
able to determine that the agents were looking for "any books or records
of any kind, computer hard drives or anything else they could use to
charge me with something."
DEA agents entered Barmesī home about 6 a.m. Monday. He said that
although DEA agents were quiet about what they were looking for, they
were adamant about what they wanted him to do. They demanded he open a
safe and if he didnīt, "they said they would tear it open," Barmes said.
"They told me that if I didnīt cooperate they would tear up the
entire house," he said. "They also said that if they needed to, they
would dig up every inch of the 17 acres I have out here. I just gave
them the keys to everything so they wouldnīt bust the locks."
Divers from the Indiana State Police searched a pond on his property
to determine if he had some kind of underwater storage unit. DEA agents
ended up seizing $250,000 in cash from Barmesī home.
"We pay a lot of our bills in cash and we pay a lot of our
independent contractors in cash," he said. "The IRS doesnīt like that.
It makes it hard for them to tax you because there is no paper trail.
Even though I do use the bank, I donīt use a lot of checks because I can
look in the barrel where the money is and see if I have any to spend."
Barmes said he was unsure of the status of his money because DEA
agents said it was "ill-gotten gains."
"Their problem is they believe the money came from selling drug
paraphernalia," he said. "My only regret is that I canīt pay a lot of
plain, hard-working people."
He does know he canīt pay his employees because he has no money and
that people working for him will no longer have a job. Barmes said he
was told by DEA agents that "I was out of business."
"It is my understanding they are taking everything out of my
businesses and hauling it all back to Pennsylvania," he said. "After
they go through everything, I guess they will decide if they will arrest
Barmes had not been charged with anything.
"But that doesnīt mean they wonīt be back for me," he said.
Barmes said it is no secret that his wholesale businesses ship all
types of smoking devices throughout the country. But the DEA sees the
items as drug paraphernalia, he said. "Drug paraphernalia" is considered
to be anything used to ingest drugs.
On the Barmes Wholesale Web site and in catalogs, items such as
acrylic, ceramic and glass smoking pipes are for sale as well as metal
hand pipes and "bullets."
Barmes said that the catalogs specify the items are to be used for
tobacco. He said it is not illegal for him to sell the items or ship
them in Indiana, but he was told it is illegal to ship the items to
certain other states because of the Interstate Commerce Act.
He said he knows that the DEA has invoices from boxes shipped from
his businesses to Pittsburgh.
"That (the invoices) is why they came in to start with," he said.
DEA agents busted windows at Barmesī businesses on Main Street.
"They could have gotten keys to the joint before they started
breaking windows," he said. They pulled everything out and just tossed
Barmes did go to the sidewalk across the street from the businesses
where two people with him took pictures of the damaged properties.
"I guess you have to just roll with the punches," he said. "This too
will pass. Now that I know how they operate, I will have to build the
Debbie Schmidtknecht can be reached at 812-886-9955 and by e-mail: