Tonawanda News

July 26, 2012

DEA raids net synthetic drugs

Staff Reports
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A North Tonawanda shop was a target in a sweeping raid by federal agents, while its owner was charged with distributing synthetic drugs. 

Fawzi Al-Arashi, 34, of Williamsville, was arrested at his home and charged  with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance analogue and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance analogue, according to U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul. 

The DEA’s Los Angeles office notified its Buffalo affiliates several months earlier that a suspected synthetic marijuana shipment was to be sent to Western New York. The package was delivered to Al-Arashi at 3407 Delaware Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda, where “Town Tobacco” is located, according to law enforcement agencies. 

The complaint further alleges that subsequent investigation discovered that Al-Arashi sold synthetic marijuana, also known as “Spice,” under such names as “Pump It,” “Strawberry Flavored Potpourri,” “Tiger Shack,” “Atomic,” “G-20,” and “California Dreams” out of  “Town Tobacco” on Delaware Avenue in Tonawanda, and most recently at “Welcome Welcome” on Main St. in North Tonawanda.

Throughout the investigation, police received numerous complaints regarding the stores. One woman called and stated that her son was in the Erie County Medical Center Psychiatric Ward after using synthetic marijuana that he bought at “Town Tobacco.”  Another person indicated that they overdosed and had to be hospitalized after using “bath salts” sold at the locale.

Another informant told police that they purchased well over $60,000 of “Spice” from the defendant between October 2011 and July 2012. During a recorded phone conversation, Al-Arashi told the CI that “they’re all 100 percent federally legal” referring to the synthetic marijuana.  

During the execution of two search warrants Wednesday morning, the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated in court that law enforcement officials seized approximately 30-thousand packets of synthetic marijuana, quantities of bath salts, various paraphernalia used to smoke the marijuana such as bongs, pipes, and rolling papers,  and approximately $50,000 worth of silver bars and coins. More than $700,000 was also seized.    

“Two points need to be made regarding this case,” Hochul said in a statement “First, the public’s assistance in reporting their concerns to law enforcement, as well as the reporting of the serious health consequences in taking these substances, needs to be commended.

In other words, if you see something, say something. Second, law enforcement is fully committed to prosecuting those responsible for introducing these dangerous substances into our community, to include those who operate as wholesalers. In other words, once the public ‘says something,’ we for our part ‘will do something’ to include using all of the arrest and seizure powers provided by federal law.” 

 The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine, or both. 

If the substances described below caused serious bodily injury, the punishment will be a mandatory minimum period of incarceration of 20, and a maximum period of life imprisonment.