Defendant in Los Angeles-Area Synthetic Drug Ring Sentenced to 16 Months in Federal Prison for Manufacture and Distribution of ‘Spice’
LOS ANGELES – A Glendale man has been sentenced to 16 months in federal prison for his role in the large-scale manufacture and distribution of synthetic drugs that are commonly called “spice.”
Yesterday afternoon, Faisal Iqbal, 34, one of 16 defendants arrested in connection with a synthetic drug ring operating out of Los Angeles, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Manuel L. Real. Iqbal and his co-conspirators were charged with conspiring to manufacture and distribute synthetic cannabinoids, which are designed to mimic the effects of THC, the psychoactive agent in marijuana, and with structuring financial transactions. Iqbal pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute synthetic cannabinoids and to structuring a financial transaction to avoid a reporting requirement.
“Although these are called ‘synthetic’ drugs, the dangers they pose are very real,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Without controls on the ingredients and manufacture of these drugs, the defendant’s products could cause severe harm to users, including death.”
Over the past several years, the DEA has identified more than 400 new designer drugs in the United States – most of which are manufactured in rogue labs in China and sold on the Internet or in retail outlets such as smoke shops, gas station convenience stores and bodegas. These substances are generally sold in brightly colored packaging, marketed to young people, and billed as “safe” alternatives to marijuana or dangerous party drugs such as MDMA (ecstasy). The synthetic drugs are commonly marked with the disclaimer “not for human consumption” and/or “DEA compliant” which is an attempt to shield distributors from prosecution. Abuse of these psychoactive substances has resulted in increasing numbers of overdose incidents, emergency room visits and even deaths.
A total of 16 defendants were charged in three separate indictments with manufacturing and distributing synthetic cannabinoids. The chemicals are mixed with agents – often acetone – to create a mixture that is sprayed onto plant material – typically marshmallow leaf or damania leaf – to create synthetic marijuana, which is commonly referred to as “spice” or “herbal incense.” Such synthetic cannabinoids are smoked or orally ingested, and are referred to in three indictments as smokable synthetic cannabinoids (SSCs). The SSCs discussed in the indictment were sold under brand names that included “Sexy Monkey,” “Crazy Monkey,” “Scooby Snax,” “Bizarro” and “Mad Hatter.”
The case was investigated by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Karen Escalante.
More information about synthetic designer drugs can be found on the Drug Fact Sheets at www.DEAdiversion.usdoj.gov.