Storeowner Admits Selling Drug Paraphernalia, Counterfeit Sports Hats
PITTSBURGH – An Allegheny County resident pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of selling and offering for sale drug paraphernalia, conspiracy to sell and offer for sale drug paraphernalia, and trademark counterfeiting, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.
Akhil Mishra, 72, of Glenshaw, Pa., (Indiana Twp.) pleaded guilty to four counts before United States District Judge Cathy Bissoon.
In connection with the guilty plea, Assistant United States Attorney Troy Rivetti advised the Court that the Mishra family has been selling drug paraphernalia for more than twenty years, mainly through two stores -- Giggles, located in downtown Pittsburgh, and Rock America, located in the North Hills. Akhil Mishra was federally convicted of selling drug paraphernalia in both 1992 and 2000, and he owned and operated the Giggles store, along with his wife. Both Giggles and Rock America, however, carried much of the same merchandise, including various types of drug paraphernalia. In February 2013, agents executed search warrants at the Mishra family businesses (Giggles and Rock America), and at the homes of both Akhil Mishra and his son, Mayank Mishra, and found evidence of drug paraphernalia, including products used to dilute heroin, glassine stamp bags for packaging heroin, various marijuana-related paraphernalia, and more than $900,000 in cash.
Based on the foregoing, Mayank Mishra was arrested and granted bond. Subsequent to his release, agents received information that Mayank Mishra was continuing to sell heroin cutting agents and glassine bags for packaging. Agents then utilized a confidential informant to purchase cutting agents and glassine bags, and the confidential informant successfully recorded the transaction. The confidential informant explicitly asked for “cut” and “bags”, and Mayank Mishra provided a material typically used to dilute heroin and the glassine stamp bags typically used to store heroin. Based on that information, agents obtained another set of search warrants for Mayank Mishra’s business and home. Once again, agents seized additional heroin cutting agents, glassine bags, marijuana paraphernalia, and cash ($86,000). Mayank Mishra was arrested a second time, and he was detained pending trial. Akhil Mishra was present in the courtroom when the evidence against his son was discussed, as well as the illegality of the drug paraphernalia.
The arrest of his son did not stop Akhil Mishra from continuing to sell cut and stamp bags to heroin dealers. The agents received information that Akhil Mishra was continuing to sell that merchandise, and a confidential informant was able to make a controlled purchase from his store in June 2014. That evidence led to the execution of a third set of search warrants at various locations associated with the Mishra family and their businesses in July 2014. Once again, the agents found cut, stamp bags, and marijuana-related paraphernalia.
Separate and apart from the drug paraphernalia investigation, investigators with the Pennsylvania State Police received information that Akhil Mishra was selling counterfeit Major League Baseball Hats. In December 2014, an investigator entered Giggles and observed counterfeit Pittsburgh Pirates winter hats and baseball hats. On Feb. 25, 2015, the same investigator purchased an unlicensed counterfeit Pittsburgh Pirates winter hat. The following day, Pennsylvania State Police investigators obtained and executed a search warrant at Giggles, resulting in the seizure of the following counterfeit merchandise: 137 Pittsburgh Steelers winter hats; seven Pittsburgh Steelers headbands; 79 Pittsburgh Pirates baseball hats; 23 various National Football League winter hats; 14 National Basketball Association winter hats; seven Philadelphia Eagles hats; two Miami Dolphins hats; one Baltimore Ravens hat, one Chicago Bears hat; five Denver Broncos hats; six Seattle Seahawks hats; one Green Bay Packers hat; eight Chicago Bulls hats; and six Los Angeles Lakers hats.
Judge Bissoon scheduled sentencing for Aug. 25, 2016, at 2:15 pm. The law provides for a maximum total sentence of nine years in prison, a fine of $2,000,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history of the defendant.
The Greater Pittsburgh Safe Streets Task Force consisting of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Allegheny County Sheriff's Office, Wilkinsburg Police Department, Allegheny County Police Department, Oakdale Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Akhil Mishra.