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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 9, 2015

Albuquerque Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Synthetic Drug Trafficking Charge

ALBUQUERQUE – Iman Al-Washah, 24, of Albuquerque, N.M., entered a guilty plea in federal court this morning to a “spice” trafficking charge.  Iman Al-Washah is one of three men arrested in the District of New Mexico in May 2014, as part of Project Synergy Phase II, a nationwide investigative effort by the DEA, Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security Investigations, FBI, IRS and other federal, state, and local partners.  Project Synergy Phase II targeted every level of the dangerous global synthetic designer drug market.  From Jan. 2014 through May 2014, nationwide enforcement operations took place targeting the drug trafficking organizations that have operated in communities across the country.

Iman Al-Washah and his co-defendants, Sabah Al-Washah, 48, and Amjad Al-Washah, 26, both Albuquerque residents were charged with “spice” trafficking charges in criminal complaints.  Amjad Al-Washah was charged with distribution of a controlled substance analogue based on his sale of synthetic cannabinoid to an undercover officer at Carlos’ Smoke Shop at 806 Old Coors Drive SW in Albuquerque on Dec. 4, 2013.  Iman Al-Washah was charged with conspiracy and distribution of a controlled analogue based on his participation in the sale of synthetic cannabinoid to an undercover officer at Carlos’ Smoke Shop on Jan. 7, 2014.  Sabah Al-Washah, the owner of Carlos’ Smoke Shop, was charged with conspiracy and aiding and abetting the distribution of a controlled substance analogue based on a sale of synthetic cannabinoid to an undercover officer at the smoke shop on Jan. 7, 2014.  Sabah Al-Washah also was charged with maintaining drug-involved premises.

The three men subsequently were charged in a four-count indictment filed on May 21, 2014.  Count 1 charged the three men with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance analogue from Dec. 4, 2013 through May 7, 2014.  Count 2 charged Sabah Al-Washah and Amjad Al-Washah with distributing a controlled substance analogue on Dec. 4, 2013.  Count 3 charged Sabah Al-Washah and Iman Al-Washah with distributing a controlled substance on Jan. 7, 2014, and Count 4 charged Sabah Al-Washah with maintaining a place, Carlos Smoke Shop, for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, and using a controlled substance analogue.  The indictment also called for the forfeiture of multiple vehicles and cash obtained through the drug offenses charged in the indictment.

During today’s proceedings, Iman Al-Washah pled guilty to Count 3 of the indictment and admitted that Sabah Al-Washah and he sold 30 packets of “spice” to an undercover law enforcement officer.  Under the terms of his plea agreement, Iman Al-Washah will be sentenced to a prison term not to exceed six months and will be required to forfeit a 2011 Cadillac, a 2006 BMW and a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro.  His sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.

Amjad Al-Washah pled guilty on Feb. 11, 2015, to Count 2 of the indictment and admitted that on Dec. 4, 2013, he sold ten packets of “spice” to an undercover law enforcement officer for $200.00 at Carlos’ Smoke Shop.  At his sentencing hearing, which has not been scheduled, Amjad Al-Washah faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison followed by a minimum of three years of supervised release.

Sabah Al-Washah has entered a not guilty plea and is pending trial, which is currently scheduled for May 11, 2015.  Charges in criminal complaints and indictments are merely accusations, and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the DEA and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer M. Rozzoni and Stephen R. Kotz.

The controlled substance analogues charged in the complaints and indictment are commonly referred to as synthetic marijuana or “spice.”  According to the DEA, over the past several years, there has been a growing use of synthetic cannabinoids.  Smoke-able herbal blends marketed as being “legal” and providing a marijuana-like high have become increasingly popular because they are easily available and, in many cases, more potent and dangerous than marijuana.  These products consist of plant material that has been coated with dangerous psychoactive compounds that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.  These substances, however, have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human consumption, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process.  Synthetic cannabinoids often are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose.

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Updated April 9, 2015