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May 28, 2015
Contact: Public Information Officer
Number: 954-660-4602

Four Tampa Residents Charged in Conspiracy to Import XLR-11, a Synthetic Cannabinoid, a/k/a "Spice"

MAY 28 (MIAMI) – Four Tampa residents have been charged by indictment with conspiracy to import a synthetic cannabinoid, a/k/a “Spice,” to the United States from China. 

A.D. Wright, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division; Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), and Ronald J. Verrochio, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Miami Division, made the announcement. 
 
Saiful Hossain, 27, Ahmed Yehia Khalifa, 28, Ahmed Maher Elhelw, 25, and Tanjina Islam Piya, 24, all from Tampa, were charged with conspiracy to import a Schedule I controlled substance (XLR-11) and conspiracy to manufacture, possess with intent to manufacture and distribute a Schedule I controlled substance (XLR-11).  If convicted, each offense carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.  The indictment also seeks forfeiture of items including, bank account funds and real property. 
 
Following today’s detention hearing before Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank J. Lynch, Jr., Hossain, Khalifa and Elhelw were detained without bond pending trial.
 
According to allegations contained in court records, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers in New York identified, searched and detained 12 United States Postal Service (USPS) parcels, destined for Indian River and Palm Beach Counties, in the Southern District of Florida.  Each of the parcels was shipped from China and allegedly contained three kilogram packages of a controlled substance, XLR-11 a chemical used in the manufacture of smokable synthetic cannabinoids (SSC).  The parcels were mailed to separate private mailboxes, with defined street addresses, located at mailbox service centers in Indian River and Palm Beach Counties.
 
The court records further allege that SSC products, commonly known as “Spice,” are a mixture of an organic “carrier” medium, such as the herb-like substance damiana leaf and/or marshmallow leaf, which is then typically sprayed or mixed with a synthetic cannabinoid chemical compound which mimics the pharmacological effect of a Schedule I or II controlled substance.  This organic “carrier” is then commonly sprayed with a tobacco flavoring such as strawberry, blueberry, or pineapple, in order to mask the harsh chemical taste upon ingestion.  Currently, there are hundreds of synthetic cannabinoid compounds.
 
This investigation was conducted by the DEA, HSI, USPIS, CBP, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Tampa Police Department, and the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.  This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
 
An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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