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Press Release

Three Tampa Residents Sentenced in Conspiracy to Import Synthetic Cannabinoids, a/k/a "Spice"

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

After a two day hearing, three Tampa residents were sentenced for their participation in a conspiracy to import synthetic cannabinoids, a/k/a “Spice,” to the United States from China, by U.S. District Court Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Robert C. Hutchinson, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, A.D. Wright, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, and Delany E. De Leon-Colon, Acting Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Miami Division, made the announcement. 

Saiful Hossain, 28, was sentenced to 120 months incarceration, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release.  Hossain was also ordered to forfeit assets totaling over $1.5 million and real property in St. Petersburg, Florida.  

Ahmed Yehia Khalifa, 28, was sentenced to 96 months incarceration, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release and Ahmed Maher Elhelw, 25, was sentenced to 36 months incarceration, to be followed by 3 years supervised release.  Khalifa and Elhelw were also ordered to forfeit assets totaling $472,780.00.  

The defendants previously pled 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). 

According to court records, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers in New York identified, searched and detained twelve U.S. 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 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 indicate 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 the a Schedule I controlled substance, THC.  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 ICE-HSI, DEA, USPIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the 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.

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 January 6, 2016

Drug Trafficking