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Mahwah police snatch Four Loko sellers in buy and bust

Photo Credit: MAHWAH P.D.
Photo Credit: MAHWAH P.D.

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST : Bans on Four Loko have only fueled a black market for the caffeine-and-alcohol-loaded drink beverage, say Mahwah police, who arrested three people accused of selling three cases at a markup of double its value, plus a $47 delivery charge — to undercover detectives.

The detectives — who posed as Ramapo College students looking to stock up on the Four Loko — were waiting at an arranged meeting point just off of Ramapo Valley Road near the campus when two of the defendants pulled up Tuesday in a 2006 BMW 330, said Capt. Stephen Jaffe.

After the pair exchanged three cases of “Four Loko” for $330 in cash from the officer, waiting detectives moved in and snatched them up, Jaffe said.

The pair were identified as Johana Gonzalez, 20, of West New York and Stephanie Gomez, 21, of South Plainfield. Police later arrested the owner of the Beamer, 23-year-old Gina Capardi, who they said posted an ad on craiglist that the detectives answered and negotiated the sale.

All three are charged with selling alcohol without a state license or permit. Municipal Court appearances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 25.

“The risk factors are the same,” Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli told NBC New York before the arrests, “but now you’re pushing it behind closed doors because they realize it’s a banned substance.

“It’s something we’re concerned about.”

Capardi, Gomez, Gonzalez
(COURTESY: MAHWAH P.D.)

Earlier this week, parents of a Pompton Lakes teen rendered unconscious by a Four Loko drinking binge buried him in Hollywood, Fla.

Police said 18-year-old Filipe Cavalcante, 18, drank three to four cans of the beverage last week and blacked out.

Batelli said more arrests are expected in Mahwah as undercover investigators work their way through craigslist and other message boards.

Sold in eight flavors, Four Loko contains the same amount of alcohol as 4-6 beers and the same amount of caffeine as 4-6 cups of coffee.

Last fall, Ramapo College banned the drinks — which some have dubbed “blackout in a can” — after 17 students who drank it were taken to the hospital.

The FDA then forced the four companies that produce the drinks to remove all caffeine, warning that it had left drinkers “wide-awake drunk.”

On November 17, the FDA sent letters to four companies producing the alcohol-laced, caffeinated drinks noting that consumption of them can render a person a  “wide-awake drunk.”

At least one of the companies is now distilling the alcohol from the drinks so that it can be blended into ethanol — which has proven to be more lucrative than selling it to college kids.

New York is among several states that have banned Four Loko. Although a similar proposal has been raised in New Jersey, lawmakers have yet to act on it.

Meanwhile, the black market flourishes: Since November, dozens of sellers have posted craigslist ads charging anywhere from $4-$8 per can, up from the original $2-$3.

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