All 16 of those charged with illegally selling vapor products to minors in a recent sting operation have been arrested, Cherokee Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jay Baker confirmed Friday.
Multiple Cherokee County law enforcement agencies cracked down on electronic cigarette supply sales to underage buyers July 25, citing 16 businesses that sold the products to teens working with police in the operation. During the operation 87 businesses were tested. The legal age in Georgia to purchase and use vapor products such as e-cigarettes is 18.
Sixteen people, who all turned themselves in, were booked into the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center and since then and have been bonded out. They are:
♦ Michael Gentry, 47, of Canton;
♦ Jiwol Kim, 64, of Canton;
♦ Kalyani Dantara, 55, of Canton;
♦ MD Huque, 49, of Woodstock;
♦ Mufarreh Maaitah, 63, of Carrollton;
♦ Bailee Childers, 19, of Canton;
♦ Ridham Desai, 47, of Canton;
♦ Patsy Pittman, 66, of Canton;
♦ Cynthia Belcher, 46, of Ball Ground;
♦ Rhee Young, 64, of Woodstock;
♦ Wahab Ramay, 20, of Norcross;
♦ Samaratunga Dammalage, 67, of Woodstock;
♦ James O’Rourke, 46, of Waleska;
♦ Sierra Jo Hammers, 25, of Acworth;
♦ Andrew Ashley, 20, of Woodstock;
♦ Maria Castillo-VeLuna, 49, of Kennesaw.
Officers from the Marshal’s Office, Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, Canton Police, Woodstock Police, Holly Springs Police and the Cherokee County School Police assisted with the operation.
Of the approximately 15 teenagers ages 14-17 who helped police, most are involved in public safety Explorers troops or the school system’s “law and justice” classes, Baker said.
The timing of the operation was not coincidental, authorities said, given a rise in youths using e-cigarettes.
In May the Cherokee County School Board unanimously approved an updated student discipline code for the new school year, which starts next week and significantly toughens punishments for student use of e-cigarettes — commonly called vaping.
Beginning on the first day of school, any students found with vaping devices or oil are being treated as if they are in possession of felony-level marijuana.