Williamsville man pleads guilty to selling synthetic marijuana
BUFFALO, N.Y.-- U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Fawzi Al-Arashi, 34, of Williamsville, N.Y., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine, or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank T. Pimentel, who is handling the case, stated that the investigation began in early 2012 when the Los Angeles Field Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) notified the DEA's Buffalo Field Office of a suspected synthetic marijuana shipment destined for Buffalo. The package was delivered to the defendant at 3407 Delaware Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda, home of "Town Tobacco."
Subsequent investigation revealed that Al-Arashi sold synthetic marijuana, also known as "Spice," under such names as "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."
On July 25, 2012, authorities executed a search warrant at a warehouse leased to the defendant where he stored the synthetic marijuana, and found some 75 pounds of the products, which were typically sold in small sealed packets.
As part of the plea agreement, Al-Arashi has agreed to forfeit more than $290,000 seized from various of his bank accounts as well as a 2012 Toyota Tundra.
“The public needs to be warned anytime a product such as this appears in our community," said U.S. Attorney Hochul. "In the case of synthetic marijuana, not only are the chemicals dangerous, they are illegal. Parents should also be aware that the packages containing these substances may be designed in such a manner as to appeal to children.”The plea is the culmination of an investigation on the part of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Brian R. Crowell, Special Agent in Charge, New York Field Division; the New York State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET), under the direction of Major Wayne C. Olson, the Tonawanda Police Department, under the direction of Chief Anthony Palombo, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Police, under the direction of Chief George Gast, the Amherst Police Department, under the direction of Chief John Askey, and the Cheektowaga Police Department, under the direction of Chief David Zack.