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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The manager of a Springfield, Ill., establishment known as Mystic Enchantments has been arrested and charged by complaint in an ongoing investigation of distribution of synthetic cannabinoids, known as Spice or K2. Letha Dean, 71, of Salisbury, Ill., was arrested on April 13, and was ordered detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. Dean appeared this afternoon before U.S. District Judge Sue E. Myerscough and waived preliminary hearing. The complaint charges Dean with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
Dean is the eighth defendant charged in a continuing task force investigation of the distribution of synthetic cannabinoids in Central Illinois. This task force, part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, is led by the DEA with the Illinois Attorney General Investigations; Illinois State Police; FBI; Decatur Police Department; Springfield Police Department; Illinois Department of Revenue; and IRS-Criminal Investigation. OCDETF is a Department of Justice program that supports multi-jurisdictional task forces of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to conduct long-term and complex investigations and prosecutions of drug-related crimes. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy A. Bass is prosecuting the cases on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois.
According to publicly disseminated DEA drug fact information, K2 and Spice are two of the many trade names or brands for synthetic cannabinoids which are human-made, mind-altering chemicals developed to mimic the effects of THC, the main active ingredient of marijuana. They are often marketed under the guise of “herbal incense” or “potpourri.” The synthetic cannabinoids are typically marketed in rectangular, heat-sealed packets with brightly colored wording and street names to appeal to a youthful crowd, such as “Scooby Snax,” “Mr. Happy,” California Dream,” “Hayz,” “AK47,” “OMG,” “Down2Earth,” etc.
Dean was arrested on April 13, at Mystic Enchantments’ current location, 1020 W. Lawrence Ave. in Springfield. Mystic Enchantments previously operated at 2828 E. Clear Lake Ave., Springfield, in the same building with The Crossing II, a liquor store. According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Dean was employed by the manager of The Crossing II to manage the distribution of synthetic cannabinoids from Mystic Enchantments.
As alleged in the complaint affidavit, on April 13, an undercover law enforcement officer met with Dean at Mystic Enchantments, and purchased 520 packets of suspected synthetic cannabinoids for $5,000. As the undercover officer exited the store carrying the packets in a black plastic garbage bag, agents entered the store and arrested Dean. Immediately after her arrest, agents searched the location and recovered approximately 1,445 additional packets from the back room. As a result of the undercover purchase and search of the store, agents recovered a total of approximately 1,967 packets, containing approximately 11,800 grams or 11.8 kilograms of suspected synthetic cannabinoids.
In February 2018, four men were charged by indictment with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute a controlled substance, namely synthetic cannabinoids or K-2. Trial is currently pending for Mohanad Al-Matarneh, of Chicago; Walid Alanasawi and Jamal Nasir, both of Decatur, Ill.; and Abdulrhamn Saleh of Hamtramck, Mich.
The indictment alleges that Alanasawi, Nasir, Saleh, and others, agreed to distribute and did distribute K-2 containing controlled substances and controlled substance analogues, from retail stores in Decatur, including JB’s, United Discount, Gold Star, Handy Pantry, Cigar Outlet, Tobacco Express, and BJ’s Mini-Mart. As part of the alleged conspiracy, Alanasawi, Nasir and Saleh agreed to obtain synthetic cannabinoids from Al-Matarneh in St. Louis, where he and others allegedly operated a clandestine laboratory. As alleged in the indictment, on Nov. 13, 2015, after departing the St. Louis laboratory, Al-Matarneh possessed with intent to distribute and attempted to distribute to the three co-defendants more than 100 kilograms of synthetic cannabinoids.
Trial is scheduled in June 2018, for Abdu Saleh Mohamed, of Decatur. The indictment, returned by the grand jury on Jan. 3, 2018, alleges that Mohamed agreed to distribute and did regularly distribute synthetic cannabinoids or K-2 from his retail store, BJ’s Mini-Mart, in Decatur. As part of the conspiracy, the defendant agreed with other store owners / operators to obtain synthetic cannabinoids from a source in St. Louis. On or about July 16, 2014, the indictment alleges Mohamed possessed with intent to distribute more than nine kilograms of synthetic cannabinoids at his storage facility in Decatur.
Two additional men have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing related to the ongoing investigation. Noman Hizam, of Decatur, pleaded guilty on March 2, 2018, to attempted possession with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute synthetic cannabinoids.
According to court documents, Hizam owns multiple stores in the Decatur area, including Handy Pantry, 3715 N. Woodford; the Cigar Outlet at 1247 E. Mound; and Tobacco Xpress 1101 N. Route 48. Sentencing for Hizam is scheduled on July 6, 2018.
Mohamed Ali Saleh, of Hamtramck, Mich., pleaded guilty in May 2017, to conspiracy to distribute synthetic cannabinoids or K-2 from January 2015 to May 2016. Saleh is scheduled to be sentenced on May 10, 2018.
Each defendant, if convicted, faces the same statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Members of the public are reminded that complaints and indictments are merely accusations; the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.