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Alpine business raided by DEA; owners cry foul over apparent excessive use of force – UPDATE

May 15th, 2014 under Top Stories

By JOHN DANIEL GARCIA

ALPINE – The Alpine business The Purple Zone was the target of a nationwide sweep of pipe shops last week in an effort to curb the use and sale of synthetic marijuana, also known as spice, and bath salts.

The operation, known as Synergy Phase II, began in January 2014 and has served nearly 200 search warrants in 29 states.

During the serving of the search warrant, federal agents forcibly entered the business and charged one of the business owners with assaulting one of the agents, while the business owners assert that excessive forced was used in carrying out the search and seizure.

In the execution of the search warrant, Arielle Lipsen – the sister of business co-owner Ilana Lipsen – was arrested for assaulting a peace officer, barricading agents from the property, and resisting arrest.

The officers on the scene, Ilana claims, had already started breaking the door down when Arielle arrived.

“She was having a conversation with a female agent, and trying to give the agents the lock code,” Ilana Lipsen claimed. “She was trying to tell them there was no key, but a code. There were too many officers and about half of them were doing nothing, then this one agent charged at her, threw her, kicked her legs out from under her, and when she was falling, her leg brushed up against his leg. That’s when he said ‘you’re trying to beat a federal agent’ and shoved the butt of his rifle into her neck.”

(photo by and courtesy of TOM COCHRAN) Arielle Lipsen shows her injury allegedly sustained from the butt of a DEA agent’s M-16 during last week’s raid on The Purple Zone.

(photo by and courtesy of TOM COCHRAN)
Arielle Lipsen shows her injury allegedly sustained from the butt of a DEA agent’s M-16 during last week’s raid on The Purple Zone.

“Ariel Lipsen was arrested for assaulting one of the agents. Neither she nor any person involved was ‘beaten with the butt of an M-16’, or assaulted in any manner,” wrote 83rd District Attorney Rod Ponton in a statement following the raid. “All members of law enforcement acted professionally and courteously.”

An investigation into excessive use of force from the unnamed officer, however, has been instigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to Tom Cochran, an Alpine business owner who photographed search and seizure operation.

FBI Agent Joshua Pirtle, Cochran said, visited his business, Big Bend Screen Printing, to collect information on the alleged use of excessive force.

Despite numerous attempts and messages by the Big Bend Sentinel to FBI Media Liaison Agent Michael Martinez, no comment was forthcoming.

FBI Agent Michael Martinez contacted the Big Bend Sentinel Thursday morning to inform reporter John Daniel Garcia that the FBI will not be issuing any statement regarding the investigation into the actions of the unnamed DEA officer.

“Harassing me over my business is one thing,” said Lipsen. “But they could have killed my sister.”

On Tuesday, both Ilana and Arielle Lipsen were indicted on federal charges.

Arielle Lipsen was indicted on one count of assault on a federal officer causing bodily injury and Ilana Lipsen was indicted on one count of person under indictment receipt of ammunition.

Purple Zone owners Ilana Lipson, and her mother, Rosa Lipsen, are currently under state indictment for multiple first-degree felony manufacture, deliver, or possession of a controlled substance following four previous raids beginning in November 2012.

They’ve pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“They’re just trying to find something against me,” Ilana said. “This is extreme harassment. I’m aware of my 4th Amendment rights and they violated it.”

The catalyst for the most current raid, Lipsen also claims, was her internet search history, as well as her business dealings with China.

“They link people with internet search history. I own a hookah lounge, so I’m always looking at new products, and I breed, train, and show Arabian horses, so I’m always looking at them online. I do business with China. All my e-cigarette merchandise is bought directly from Chinese distributors,” she said. “It’s the last reach from the DEA in Brewster to get something from nothing. There were 30-plus officers at my shop, and they seized my personal and business computers, my camera, my cell phone, and my registered guns. They also seized packages of kratom, which is a legal herbal stimulant. They absolutely did not find anything illicit or any contraband.”

The officers, Lipsen also said, turned the security cameras in her shop to face the walls and not capture any agents in the raid.

“I’m not aware of the agents doing that,” said DEA Spokesperson Lilia Rico, who also said that the DEA don’t run cameras during raids.

The guns and ammunition seized in the raid, Rico also said, were taken as Lipsen is currently under state indictment.

Photos by citizen photojournalist Cochran that he had posted to Facebook during the end of the raid were deleted, then reposted once Facebook officials found nothing conflicting with their code, despite requests from authorities.

“The whole deal is just scary,” said Cochran, who witnessed the tail end of the raid. “It just shows the violent, confrontational aspects of modern policing and the increasing militarization of the nation’s police forces, as well as accusations of funding terrorism to get access and warrants against anyone.”

The use of terror, Cochran and Lipsen said, has been a part of Operation Synergy phase II.

“They claimed that I had ties with Hezbollah and Syria, which is ridiculous,” said Lipsen. “How can I, a Jewish woman who supports the State of Israel, contribute to those groups or states?”

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5 Responses to “Alpine business raided by DEA; owners cry foul over apparent excessive use of force – UPDATE”

  1. houstonderek says:

    I’ve done Fed time, and I’ve seen the bullshit they pull off. I managed to get over 200 years collectively of time off and even one complete reversal as a jailhouse lawyer because of U.S. attorney and agent misconduct. The Feds will lie, inflate drug amounts, and just make stuff up to get larger sentences, and the intimidation tactics they use is nothing short of criminal. When you’re terrified, do not understand Federal law, and cannot afford an attorney that does (panel lawyers and the Public defenders are dumptrucks), you’d say almost anything to get out on bond.

    Rule of Law, I’m sorry you have such a rosy view of our government and their tactics. I hope, some day, they get your address accidentally from a crackhead informant trying to get out of trouble and kick your door in. I want you to witness first hand what the government thinks of the Bill of Rights (and it’s funny someone with the handle “rule of law” seems comfortable with the various ways that list of ten amendments is constantly ignored by law enforcement).

    I also find it telling that you have no problem with the DEA summarily scheduling substances without legislative justification.

  2. Doubting Rich says:

    Rule of law

    May want to wait before you defend corrupt “law enforcement”.

    Lipton has been ordered to recant and lie as a condition of he bond. That is corruption, pure and simple. There can be no other explanation. Every person involved in this raid should be summarily fired. Those whose actions are deemed criminal must be prosecuted, and it sounds like that must include at least the cowardly, pathetic excuse for a man who beat an innocent woman.

  3. rule of law says:

    Lipton is recanting and apologizing to DEA and other law enforcement, saying she made the whole thing up. She will admit that it was all made up, that no law enforcement such as DEA or anyone else on the scene roughed her sister up.

    She is also publicly saying that the information on Tom Cochran’s Facebook is made up as well, and incorrect.

    May want to wait before you overreact about law enforcement

  4. TOPDOG says:

    RENEGADE LAW ENFORCEMENT ON A CRUSADE.
    Who are these people that set themselves up like some God demanding absolute blind obedience and total subjugation, deciding what is good for everyone. I object. The D.E.A.has turned into a group of evil authoritarian sociopaths., Completely out of control and way over the top.I will never give my free will nor my self disciplined choice to make my own decisions as to whatever I desire. It is time for this group’s evil grip to be released from the throat of every free thinking person on this planet. At the very least, America’s asinine drug policy’s should be held in check at the U.S. border. The world is fed up with these equally asinine drug laws and especially the enforcement methods used to criminalize and subjugate everyone.It will now take many generations to undo the damage already done by this evil group of authoritarian sociopaths, I stand in objection. Please help to resist these evil people had just discovered (by selective trial) that the JWH 018 synthetic THC was a very effective treatment for my severe case of schizophrenia with accompanying depression with dysgraphia and further, that at a higher dose,(HU 210 formula) ,that it was capable of regrowing,(via stimulation), that area of the brain where depression and the seat of the disorder lies, triggering high function. Effecting,(hopefully), a permanent cure in six months. Yet I find the D.E.A. has banned them the very week I began to seek the cure.

  5. selfring says:

    Federal government over the top. But clearly since this is a democrat administration we cannot call it a “war against women” or a “war against hispanics”. One does wonder home much this raid cost(?). Enough revenue maybe to hire yet more federal police? Hmmmm…..?? Last time the Big Bend Region was occupied like this was by the U.S., military during the Mexican revolution. When they finally left it was “good riddance” and when the time comes once again it will be “good riddance”.

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