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Press Release

Four Tampa Residents Charged in Conspiracy to Import XLR-11, a Synthetic Cannabinoid, a/k/a "Spice"

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

Four Tampa residents have been charged by indictment with conspiracy to import a synthetic cannabinoid, a/k/a “Spice,” to the United States from China.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), A.D. Wright, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, and Ronald J. Verrochio, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Miami Division, made the announcement.

Saiful Hossain, 27, Ahmed Yehia Khalifa, 28, Ahmed Maher Elhelw, 25, and Tanjina Islam Piya, 24, all from Tampa, were charged with conspiracy to import a Schedule 1 controlled substance (XLR-11) and conspiracy to manufacture, possess with intent to manufacture and distribute a Schedule 1 controlled substance (XLR-11).  If convicted, each offense carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.  The indictment also seeks forfeiture of items including, bank account funds and real property.

Following today’s detention hearing before Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank J. Lynch, Jr., Hossain, Khalifa and Elhelw were detained without bond pending trial.

According to allegations contained in court records, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers in New York identified, searched and detained twelve United States Postal Service (USPS) parcels, destined for Indian River and Palm Beach Counties, in the Southern District of Florida.  Each of the parcels was shipped from China and allegedly contained three kilogram packages of a controlled substance, XLR-11 a chemical used in the manufacture of smokable synthetic cannabinoids (SSC).  The parcels were mailed to separate private mailboxes, with defined street addresses, located at mailbox service centers in Indian River and Palm Beach Counties.

The court records further allege that SSC products, commonly known as “Spice,” are a mixture of an organic “carrier” medium, such as the herb-like substance damiana leaf and/or marshmallow leaf, which is then typically sprayed or mixed with a synthetic cannabinoid chemical compound which mimics the pharmacological effect of a Schedule I or II controlled substance.  This organic “carrier” is then commonly sprayed with a tobacco flavoring such as strawberry, blueberry, or pineapple, in order to mask the harsh chemical taste upon ingestion.  Currently, there are hundreds of synthetic cannabinoid compounds.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of HSI, DEA, USPIS, CBP, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Tampa Police Department, and the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carmen Lineberger and Antonia Barnes.

An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on

Updated May 28, 2015

Drug Trafficking