Dozens of tanks containing nitrous oxide were seized from a Cerritos business last week during a federal raid targeting illegal sales of the 'laughing gas' for use as a recreational drug.
The operation also resulted in the arrest of a customer at the location allegedly in possession of a large quantity of illegal drugs and $4,000 in cash.
BPG Performance in Cerritos One of 17 Southland Businesses Raided
BPG Performance, located in the 16300 block of Piuma Ave. in Cerritos, was one of several Southland businesses raided by Cerritos Sheriff's Station deputies during `Operation No Laughing Matter' -- .
The FDA has recently cracked down on the illegal use of nitrous oxide, which has lawful uses in dentistry and in whipped cream dispensers. Nitrous -- commonly called "noz" by users -- is inhaled at raves and other events from balloons that are filled from large, compressed tanks.
"The focus of the operation was to 'seize' all of the tanks containing nitrous oxide at the location, in addition to other items of evidence such as computers, bookkeeping material, etc.," Cerritos Sheriff's Detective Aaron King told Patch.
King said all individuals that were inside the Cerritos shop during the March 22 raid were detained and identified, including two employees and several customers.
Customer's Vehicle Contained Large Quantities of Cocaine, Meth, Marijuana & Other Drugs
Evidence suggesting that one of the customer's vehicles may contain narcotics, led to a search that resulted in the discovery of a large quantity of various drugs found inside a backpack in the vehicle's trunk.
"The quantity of narcotics recovered indicated that the registered owner of the vehicle, who was later arrested, was in possession of these drugs with the intent to sell them," King said.
Deputies arrested Joshua Green, 42, of Cardiff, Calif., the detective said.
Among the drugs found inside the backpack were: cocaine, marijuana, hashish, methamphetamine, a liquid that was possibly PCP, and other substances that will undergo testing to determine what they are (possibly LSD and ecstasy), the detective said.
King said Green was at BPG to fill up 5 to 6 tanks with nitrous oxide. He and the other occupants of the vehicle (who were not arrested), had traveled from the San Diego area to Cerritos, and were bound for a Jerry Garcia tribute band concert in Los Angeles.
Green was also carrying roughly $4,000 in cash, he added.
The owner of BPG was not at the location, however, all of the employees were cooperative and were interviewed by federal agents prior to being released, according to King.
After BPG employees assisted federal agents in disconnecting all of the tanks containing nitrous oxide, the evidence was loaded onto a tractor trailer, which then transported the evidence to a holding facility.
Approximately 30 to 40 tanks containing nitrous oxide were seized from the Cerritos business, King said.
Sales of Nitrous Oxide Have Spiked in Last Five Years
Sales of nitrous oxide as a drug have dramatically increased in Southern California over the past five years, according to the Sheriff's Department.
While the prescription drug has legitimate uses, such as in anesthesia, it is also used to create a temporary, euphoric "rush." At high and prolonged exposure levels, nitrous is an asphyxiant that can cause death from a lack of oxygen.
During the past year, several teenagers in the Los Angeles area have been killed in car accidents linked to the use of nitrous, according to court records.
- City News Service contributed to this report.