Investigations by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles have resulted in the arrest of 16 defendants allegedly involved in the large-scale manufacture and distribution of synthetic narcotics commonly known as “spice.”
The arrests on Oct. 14 and Oct. 15 were part of a nationwide crackdown on synthetic drug distribution that the DEA labeled “Project Synergy III.” The law enforcement operation in Los Angeles targeted three organizations that allegedly manufactured and distributed thousands of kilograms of synthetic cannabinoids, which are designed to mimic the effects of THC, the psychoactive agent in marijuana.
Over the past several years, the DEA has identified more than 400 new designer drugs in the United States – most of which are manufactured in rogue labs in China and sold on the Internet or in retail outlets, according to the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. The substances are generally sold in brightly colored packaging, marketed to young people and billed as “safe” alternatives to marijuana or dangerous party drugs such as MDMA, which is also known as ecstasy. The synthetic drugs are commonly marked with the disclaimer “not for human consumption” or “DEA approved,” which is an attempt to shield distributors from prosecution. Abuse of the psychoactive substances has resulted in numerous overdoses, emergency room visits and deaths.
In the three cases in Los Angeles, 16 defendants are charged with manufacturing and distributing synthetic cannabinoids. The chemicals are mixed with agents – often acetone – to create a mixture that is sprayed onto plant material – typically marshmallow leaf or damania leaf. Such synthetic cannabinoids are smoked or orally ingested and are referred to as “smokable synthetic cannabinoids” (SSCs). The SSCs outlined in the indictment were sold under brand names “Sexy Monkey,” “Crazy Monkey,” “Scooby Snax,” “Bizarro” and “Mad Hatter.”
The defendants were identified as Faisal Iqbal, 34, of Glendale; Sana Faisal, 32, of Glendale; Mohammad Iqbal, 65, of Glendale; Fidencio Garcia Jr., 25, of North Hollywood; Ahmad Abu Farie, 54, of Huntington Beach; Mohammad Abu Farie, 25, of Huntington Beach; Ehab Abu Farie, 24, of Chandler, Arizona; Samia Amaninawabi, 39, of Ontario; Aziz Maali, 51, formerly of Monterey Park; Adnan Bahhur, 55, of Anaheim; Islam Bahhur, 29, of Anaheim; Hakeem Bahhur, 24, of Anaheim; Maesa Bahhur, 44, of Greenville, South Carolina; Mohamad Hamade, 31, of Irvine; Oun Alrzouq, 49, of Anaheim; and Yasir Harb, 55, of Romoland, California. The defendants are charged with conspiracy to manufacture, possess with intent to distribute, and the distribution of a controlled substance – charges that carry a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison.
For information about synthetic designer drugs and the DEA’s operation, visit www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov.