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Press Release

Four Men Charged With Synthetic Drug Distribution

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III today announced the unsealing of a federal indictment charging four individuals with crimes relating to the distribution of synthetic cannabinoids. The indictment charges Ali El Khateeb (45, Tampa), Al Eddin Khaled (23, Wesley Chapel), and George Challita (56, New Orleans, LA) with conspiring to distribute and the distribution of AM-2201, a controlled substance analogue. El Khateeb, Khaled, and Anwar Gaber (31, Tampa) are also charged with conspiring to distribute and distribution of the controlled substance XLR-11. If convicted, each offense carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. The indictment also seeks forfeitures, including a money judgment in the amount of approximately $5.9 million.

Corporate filings reveal that Khaled is associated with a business known as Wild Incense, located 4401 E. 10th Avenue in Tampa. This location was the focus of a search warrant that was executed on July 25, 2012, the date of nationwide enforcement actions relating to the distribution of smokable synthetic cannabinoids.

An analogue substance has a substantially similar chemical structure and effect as a controlled substance. The Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 (CSAEA) allows many of these drugs to be treated as controlled substances if they are proven to be chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance. When intended for human consumption, analogues are treated in the same fashion as the controlled substance and provide law enforcement with a means to keep pace with the rapidly changing environment surrounding the distribution of chemicals used to replace outlawed substances. 

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This indictment is the result of a long-term Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation involving the joint participation of numerous law enforcement agencies in the Tampa Bay area and nationwide.  The agencies involved include the Drug Enforcement Administration in Tampa, Gainesville, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Milwaukee,  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Marshals Service, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Tampa Police Department, Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, Ocala Police Department, Gainesville Police Department, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Levy County Sheriff’s Office, Union County Sheriff’s Office, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, and Marion County Sheriff’s Office. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

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Updated January 26, 2015