MAY 09 (ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) – Yesterday the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other federal, state, and local partners announced the culmination of Project Synergy Phase II, an ongoing effort targeting every level of the dangerous global synthetic designer drug market. Since January and leading up to early this morning, nationwide enforcement operations have taken place targeting these drug trafficking organizations that have operated in communities across the country.
|Packets of seized spice.|
According to the announcement, Project Synergy II began in Jan. 2014 and culminated yesterday with law enforcement operations in 29 states that involved more than 45 DEA offices serving nearly 200 search warrants. The Albuquerque District Office of the DEA coordinated New Mexico’s participation in the nationwide takedown which included the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Albuquerque Police Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the HIDTA Region I Middle Rio Grande Task Force, HIDTA Region III Narcotics Task Force and the Safe City Strike Force.
“The abuse of dangerous synthetic drugs has become a nationwide concern,” said Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit of the DEA El Paso Division. “DEA, with the help of our law enforcement partners, will continue to identify, investigate, arrest, and seize the illicit assets of those who manufacture and deal in these substances. Individuals, retailers and organizations that continue to circumvent the law and engage in the trafficking of these dangerous drugs should be on notice that law enforcement agencies will utilize all available resources to hold them accountable for their actions.”
The New Mexico operation included the arrest of five individuals on federal synthetic drug trafficking charges and one individual on state synthetic drug trafficking charges, and the execution of 11 federal search warrants, 11 federal seizure warrants and two state search warrants in Albuquerque, N.M.
Amjad Al-Washah, 27, Sabah Al-Washah, 47, Iman Al-Washah, 23, Sajey Beirat, 19, and Ramzi Kahalah, 53, all of Albuquerque, were arrested yesterday based on federal criminal complaints:
The five defendants made their initial appearances in federal court this morning and remain in custody pending detention hearings scheduled tomorrow morning. If convicted on the distribution and conspiracy charges, each of the five defendants faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. If convicted on the maintaining drug-involved premises charges, Sabah Al-Washah and Ramzi Kahalah each face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison.
Fidel Abdeljawad, 46, of Albuquerque, was arrested on a state criminal complaint charging him with possession with intent to distribute a control substance, synthetic cannabinoids, a fourth degree felony. Abdeljawad’s bond was set at $150,000 cash or surety. If convicted, Abdeljawad faces up to 18 months in prison.
Charges in criminal complaints are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
During yesterday’s law enforcement operation, officers seized more than $275,000 in cash, approximately 12,000 packages of suspected synthetic cannabinoid, more than half a kilogram of treated suspected synthetic cannabinoid that had not yet been packaged and 13 vehicles valued at more than $450,000. The vehicles seized included a Lamborghini, two Dodge Vipers and a Cadillac CTSV with a 1000 horsepower racing engine.
The federal cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer M. Rozzoni and Jack E. Burkhead and related forfeiture matters are being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kotz. The state case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jason Yamato of the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The DEA’s Albuquerque District Office also participated in investigations that contributed to Project Synergy II’s law enforcement operations in the Atlanta, Ga., metropolitan area. Those operations included the seizure of bank accounts containing an aggregate of $1.4 million, $150,000 to $200,000 in cash, 177 kilograms of synthetic cannabinoid, 800 processed packages of synthetic cannabinoid, and 250 pounds of untreated spice plant material.