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BPD, NPD, PAPD help federal agents bust large drug ring
BEAUMONT - by Lauren Huet
Police and federal agents seized thousands of packets of synthetic marijuana, or Kush, as they carried out 19 search warrants in different states Thursday morning. Investigators arrested ten people they say took part in the large synthetic marijuana distribution ring.
Beaumont Police, Nederland Police, and Port Arthur Police aided federal agents in four raids at 9 a.m. Thursday. Police arrested three men: Joe Aref of Nederland, Arafat Khoudour of Beaumont, and Ali Bedwan of Port Arthur. They also seized more than a thousand packets of synthetic marijuana, money, and Khoudour's Camero.
Lieutenant Ky Brown, a Beaumont Police Officer with the Narcotics Division, says the 19 search warrants spanned different states and took place at about the same time.
"We were trying to time it so that they wouldn't have any warning that the other parts of their business were getting search warrants executed on them," said Brown.
Investigators say Aref, Khoudour, and Bedwan are distributors in the drug ring.
"Each of those suspects were actually receiving the shipments from the Syracuse, New York area, and then they were distributing it to local street level dealers," said Brown.
The large operation was based out of Syracuse, New York. Manufacturers sprayed substitute marijuana with chemicals such as UR-144, which they imported from China and other countries, added flavoring, packaged it, and shipped it to distributors in Texas, South Carolina, and Ohio.
Brown says some of the drug money was sent to countries in the Middle East.
"The investigation led to where even Homeland Security got involved with possible Middle-Eastern terrorist type ties," said Brown.
Police say the chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana are dangerous.
"The people that are treating these aren't necessarily treating them with the same chemicals all the time," said Brown. "You really, truly have no idea what's being treated on this product that you're getting."
The federal investigation into the synthetic marijuana drug operation is far from over.
"Basically track the proceeds, see how tied in it was with so called legitimate businesses, and they're going to investigate the overseas trafficking of the money, see where it was going, see what it was doing," explained Brown.
The ten individuals police and federal agents arrested have been indicted by a federal grand jury with drug charges. They could face up to 20 years in prison and up to a one million dollar fine.