Nationwide Project Synergy Arrests In Arkansas
Part of Largest-Ever Synthetic Drug Takedown
Little Rock - Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and William J. Bryant, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock District Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), announced today that five individuals were arrested and charged by federal complaint in connection with Project Synergy, the largest-ever coordinated law enforcement strike against designer drugs. The federal complaint charges Amjad Kattom, age 36; Sahar Kattom, age 34; Yousef Qattoum, age 37;Abdul Aziz Farishta, age 50; and Adam Kattoum, age 20, with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and analogues of controlled substances, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846. Eassa Rawashdeh, age 23, was also charged in the complaint. He was not arrested. Anyone knowing his whereabouts should contact their local law enforcement. The defendants appeared today before United States Magistrate Beth Deere for an initial appearance on the federal complaint and remain in custody.
"The arrests made here today are a part of a much larger operation in 35 states and abroad targeting dangerous designer synthetic drug trafficking organizations," stated Thyer. "We intend to send a clear message that law enforcement efforts to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations are increasingly coordinated. Street dealers to business owners, if you are operating an illegal drug organization, it's time to stop and consider the price you will pay."
"Many of these designer drugs (cannabinoids and cathinones) are unregulated and their availability makes them even more dangerous and deadly," warned Bryant. "Those who abuse designer drugs are playing Russian roulette. Users have absolutely no idea what they are putting into their bodies, nor do they understand the decrepit environments in which these drugs were made in foreign labs and further prepared for sale in the United States."
The complaint alleges that the defendants conspired to distribute synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones from several businesses in Central Arkansas, including Sunshine Food, Sunshine Mart, Woodrow Discount Store, Joseph's Discount Store, Smokey's Discount Tobacco, and Hip Hop Sportwear, from July 2012 through June 25, 2013. The affidavit alleges that multiple packages of the synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones were shipped to the defendants and multiple controlled purchases were made during the investigation.
The statutory penalty for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and analogues of controlled substances is not more than 20 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine or both, with not less than three years of supervised release to follow.
The investigation was conducted by the DEA - Tactical Diversion Squad composed of DEA Special Agents, DEA Diversion Investigators, and Task Force Officers from: Little Rock Police Department, Conway Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, and Pine Bluff Police Department. Also taking part in the investigation was Homeland Security Investigations; the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation Division including Task Force Officers from Benton Police Department and Pulaski County Sheriff's Office; with the United States Postal Inspectors and the Little Rock Police Department. Assisting agencies were the Arkansas National Guard; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; the United States Secret Service; the Arkansas State Police and the Arkansas Tobacco Control Board.
A criminal complaint contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.