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Press Release

New York Man Admits Distribution Conspiracy Involving More Than 10 Kilograms Of Synthetic Designer Drugs

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A Queens, New York, man today admitted his role in a scheme to distribute controlled substance analogues, which are designer drugs that have chemical structures and hallucinogenic effects similar to Schedule I controlled substances, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.           

Elmostafa Charif, 37, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty to a two-count indictment charging him with conspiracy to distribute, and possessing with intent to distribute, the controlled substance analogues NM2201 and 5F-AMB. NM2201 and 5F-AMB are most closely related to synthetic Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Since February 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been investigating the importation, distribution, and use of designer drugs popularly known as synthetic cannabinoids. “K2” and “Spice” are common examples of synthetic cannabinoids.

Synthetic cannaboids are created when damiana leaves – an inert, plant-like substance – are sprayed with controlled substance analogues and treated with synthetic flavoring. The flavored and treated damiana leaves are then smoked by users.

Charif admitted that, on April 13, 2015, he conspired with others to purchase and distribute approximately 10 kilograms of synthetic cannabinoids, including approximately five kilograms of NM2201 and approximately five kilograms of 5F-AMB. Charif also admitted that he purchased liquid flavoring and damiana leaves with the controlled substance analogues, knowing that they would be used to create a product that was smoked or otherwise consumed by users.

NM2201 and 5F-AMB are each controlled substance analogues as defined under the Analogue Act due to the fact that both NM2201 and 5F-AMB have chemical structures and hallucinogenic properties similar to the Schedule I controlled substances 5F-PB-22 and ADB-PINACA, respectively.

Both counts of the indictment to which Charif pleaded guilty carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 22, 2017.   

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the DEA, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski, with the investigation leading to today’s plea. 

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Wangenheim of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Unit in Newark.

Defense counsel:  Aaron Wallenstein, Esq. 

Updated December 20, 2016

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 16-315