DEC 16 (BAKERSFIELD, Calif.) —Mikhael Issa Kamar, aka Michael Kamar, 51, of Bakersfield, appeared today in federal court for arraignment on a three-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Fresno on December 12, 2013, charging him with conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute, distributing, and possessing with intent to distribute various designer synthetic drugs, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Jay Fitzpatrick and United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to the court record, the two-year investigation that led to this indictment resulted in the seizure of more than 1,000 pounds of designer synthetic drugs from a warehouse and smoke shop called Havana House in Bakersfield that Kamar owns and operates and $2.7 million in cash from Kamar’s residence and smoke shop.
Designer synthetic drugs are often marketed as herbal incense, bath salts, jewelry cleaner, or plant food, and have caused significant abuse, addiction, overdoses, and emergency room visits. Those who have abused synthetic drugs have suffered vomiting, anxiety, irritability, seizures, hallucinations, tachycardia, elevated blood pressure, and loss of consciousness. They have caused significant organ damage, as well as overdose deaths.
The drugs seized in this case included synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones. Smokable synthetic cannabinoids are often marketed as K2, spice, herbal blends, incense or potpourri and as “legal” and providing a marijuana-like high. Synthetic cannabinoids have become increasing popular, particularly among teens and young adults, because they are readily available at a variety of retail outlets, including head shops, smoke shops, and over the Internet. Synthetic cannabinoids are often more potent and dangerous than marijuana. This year, the American Association of Poison Control Centers has reported 2,436 calls relating to human exposure to synthetic cannabinoids.
Synthetic cathinones marketed as “bath salts” are composed of dangerous substances perceived to mimic cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and/or methamphetamine. They are not the bath salts used in your tub. Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia, and violent episodes. The American Association of Poison Control Centers has reported 913 calls this year related to synthetic cathinone.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bakersfield Police Department, and Kern County Probation Department, and was part of Operation Synergy, a nationwide law enforcement effort coordinated by DEA’s Special Operations Division. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the criminal case and Assistant United States Attorney Heather Mardel Jones is handling the forfeiture of assets.
Kamar is temporarily detained as a flight risk and danger to the community. He has a detention hearing scheduled for December 20, 2013.
If convicted, Kamar faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Kamar is also subject to deportation if convicted.