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Three Southeast Texans indicted in New York State
Three Southeast Texans were among 10 people indicted in connection with a large synthetic marijuana distribution organization in Central New York, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.
Joe Aref, a 28-year-old from Nederland, Arafat Khoudour, a 29-year-old from Beaumont, and Ali Bedwan, a 25-year-old from Port Arthur, were among the 10 people indicted by a federal grand jury with conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute, and distributing, synthetic marijuana, the DOJ's release stated.
If convicted, the defendants face up to a 20 year imprisonment, up to a $1 million fine, and at least three years of supervised release follwing any period of incarceration.
Arraignments were scheduled to take place Wednesday afternoon in the U.S. District Court in Syracuse before Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles.
The prosecutions resulted from an inviestigation that took place in the fall of 2012 by the Syracuse Resident Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Onodaga County Sheriff's Office, the Syracuse Police Department, the New York State Police, the United States Marshals Service, and the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The investigation, which included wiretaps on one of the defendant's phones, revealed this synthetic marijuana trafficing organization was responsible for the manufacture and distribution of about 100 to 200 pounds of synthetic marijuana per month, the DOJ's release stated.
The synthetic marijuana was manufactured in clandestine locations in and around Syracuse by members of the organization and defendents are accused of utilizing chemicals such as UR-144, a Schedule I controlled substance, which they imported from China and elsewhere, sprayed the chemicals on leafy plant material, added flavoring, and then placed the synthetic marijuana product in packages with various names including: "Scooby Snax", "WTF", and "Blue Caution", according to the DOJ's news release.
The packages were then distributed to local convenience stores and shipped to co-conspirators in Texas, Ohio, and South Carolina for distribution, according to the DOJ's news release.
Search warrants were executed in Texas, Camillus, New York, and several locations around Syracuse, New York.
The following items were recovered: an AR-15 rifle, Ruger handgun, about 10 kilograms of synthetic chemicals, several thousand packets of prepackaged synthetic marijuana, about $75,000 in U.S. currency, two vehicles, and equipment used to manufacture the synthetic marijuana, the DOJ's news release stated.