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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, August 21, 2015

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

Four Tampa residents plead guilty to their involvement in a conspiracy to import a synthetic cannabinoid, XLR-11, a/k/a “Spice,” and paraphernalia to the United States from China, before United States Chief Magistrate Judge Frank J. Lynch, Jr., in Ft. Pierce, Florida.

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, 28, of Tampa, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import a Schedule l controlled substance (XLR-11) and conspiracy to manufacture, possess with intent to manufacture and distribute a Schedule l controlled substance (XLR-11).  Each offense carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Hossain also agreed to the forfeiture of assets totaling over $1.5 million and real property in St. Petersburg, Florida.  

Last week, on Tuesday, August 11, 2015, Ahmed Yehia Khalifa, 28, and Ahmed Maher Elhelw, 25, both from Tampa, pleaded guilty to 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).  Each offense carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The defendants also agreed to the forfeiture of assets totaling $472,780.00.  

On Wednesday, August 12, 2015, Tanjina Islam Piya, 24, of Tampa, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import drug paraphernalia.  The offense carries a maximum penalty of 3 years in prison.  The defendant also agreed to the forfeiture of assets totaling $157,158.80 and real property in St. Petersburg, Florida. 

The sentencing for the four defendants has been set for October 22, 2015, before U.S. District Court Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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.           

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 www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Updated August 24, 2015