- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A man charged with selling powder that dilutes heroin and tiny “stamp” bags used to package it for street sale must remain jailed until trial, after a federal judge agreed with prosecutors that he’ll keep selling them if he remains free.

U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon revoked bail for Akhil Mishra, 70, of Indiana Township after a brief hearing Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors said they are trying to curb a heroin epidemic in Allegheny County. OverdoseFreePA, a website run by the University of Pittsburgh, tracked 256 overdose deaths in the county in 2014, including 139 from heroin.

Mishra had already been convicted of selling marijuana pipes known as bongs and other drug paraphernalia in 1992 and 2000 at other family-owned “head shops” in Pittsburgh.

The 2000 investigation grew into a prosecution of drug-themed comedian Tommy Chong, who was convicted of selling bongs from his California-based Nice Dreams Enterprises to stores like Mishra’s. Chong pleaded guilty and received nine months in prison from a federal judge in Pittsburgh in September 2003.

Mishra’s more recent offenses are more serious because they deal with heroin, Hickton said.

“He’s participating in a stream of commerce that’s killing people,” he said.

According to a 2013 indictment, Akhil Mishra’s son, Mayank, 34, of Glenshaw, conspired with two street gang members to distribute heroin by selling them “cutting” powders and “stamp” bags. Prosecutors say that’s been going on for 14 years.

Mayank Mishra was jailed after he allegedly continued to sell the heroin packaging supplies from his home while free on bail and at a store he operates, Rock America, in a struggling mall in Pittsburgh’s North Hills suburbs. Akhil Mishra was then also charged with conspiring to help his son sell the same items at Giggles, a downtown novelty store.

Prosecutors moved to revoke Akhil Mishra’s bond after he was arrested by the state police last week for selling counterfeit merchandise - a Pittsburgh Pirates-style baseball cap. But authorities also found stamp bags and heroin-cutting powders that Mishra couldn’t sell as a condition of remaining free.

“This defendant will not stop until he’s incarcerated,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Conway told the judge. “The Mishra family has been helping heroin dealers distribute their poison in our community for over a decade.”

Defense attorney, G. William Bills Jr. didn’t dispute the government’s claims, but argued the court was obligated to let Mishra remain free if there were some other way to ensure he’d stop selling the heroin paraphernalia until trial. Mishra’s wife offered to close the stores, and Bills told the judge that Mishra would let court officials inspect his home and remove any illegal items.

The judge said closing the stores wouldn’t necessarily prevent Mishra from selling the items from home, noting that he had a box of the stamp bags shipped there just last month.

Previous raids of Mishra homes and businesses also yielded $907,000 in cash.

Bills said the judge’s ruling was “unfortunate, because he’s going to spend approximately 18 months in jail before his trial.”

He said it will take that long because prosecutors told him they plan to charge at least one additional person.

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