June 10, 2019
Contact: Public Information Officer
Phone Number: (954) 660-4602
Tampa man on federal supervised release pleads guilty to laundering proceeds of synthetic marijuana conspiracy
Jacksonville, Fla. - Arafat Aljubeh (54, Tampa) has pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder the proceeds of a conspiracy involving the distribution of a synthetic marijuana referred to as “AB-FUBINACA.” At the time of the offense, Aljubeh was on federal supervised release stemming from a 2014 federal conviction for conspiring to traffic in counterfeit Nike shoes. Aljubeh faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison on the current offense,and a maximum penalty of 2 years’ imprisonment for violating his supervised release.
According to the plea agreement, in April 2017 in Baker County, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by Thair Zatar. Zatar was issued a warning and gave the trooper consent to search his vehicle. When the trooper looked in the back of Zatar’s vehicle, he discovered nine large black garbage bags, weighing approximately 415 pounds, which were stuffed with 27,000 individual packets labeled as “potpourri.” The packets were branded with names including “Outer Space” and “Geeked Up.” The trooper suspected the packets contained synthetic marijuana, and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration later confirmed that fact. Zatar was arrested and informed the DEA that his supplier was Aljubeh.
Zatar pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to distribute AB-FUBINACA and was sentenced in 2018 to four years and three months in federal prison.
A review of Zatar’s phone revealed text messages that had been sent to Zatar instructing him where to deposit the proceeds from the drug sales. An investigation into the account, and others, by Homeland Security Investigations revealed that the accounts were being used to receive the proceeds of AB-FUBINACA from Zatar and others. After deposits were made into the account, Aljubeh and his co-conspirators would transfer the money back and forth between the accounts in a complex series of transactions designed to obscure the source, ownership, and control of the funds. Ultimately, the drug proceeds were used to make five purchases of real estate in the Tampa area.
This case was investigated by the DEA's Jacksonville District Office, Homeland Security Investigations, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.