Four South Florida Residents Plead Guilty to Synthetic Drug Conspiracy Charges

A recent example of enforcement of these new laws is a case involving Saiful Hossain, who worked in his father’s grocery store in Hillsborough County.

In 2012, the business was selling the synthetic drug openly before new laws were enacted banning a list of the chemicals used to manufacture the synthetic drug known as Spice.

According to federal documents, on November 7 of last year, Vero Beach resident Ahmed Maher Elhelw was arrested when federal agents discovered a three kilogram package of XLR-11, a controlled substance chemical used in the manufacture of SSC (smokable synthetic cannabinoids) in his possession. The chemical was one of many that were banned by the new law implemented in 2012. Subsequent investigation uncovered approximately seven more packages, containing equal amounts. The chemical that was imported into the Vero Beach area originating in China had a projected street value of more than $5.4 million.

Elhelw was the first of four South Florida residents who was taken into custody in a conspiracy to import and distribute synthetic chemicals in a plan that was hatched by Hossain after he decided to go out on his own when his father’s grocery store stopped selling the now illegal substance.

In late 2012, Hossain, along with his childhood friend Ahmed Yehia Khalifa and his wife, Tanjina Piya opened A&S Imports and began bringing in the chemicals from overseas needed to manufacture the drug, a/k/a Spice, that was previously legal to sell.

By way of the Internet, the three would send money by wire to a website that advertised selling legal research chemicals that was located in China. The chemicals were shipped to more than twenty separate Pak Mail Shipping Store Locations in South and Central Florida. Elhelw was in charge of overseeing the pick-up of the chemicals using a detail of drivers. When the chemicals were consolidated, they were stockpiled in a rented storage facility warehouse in Tampa.

Their thriving illegal enterprise completely fell apart when the other three suspects were arrested by the US Marshals Service in May 2015 after federal search warrants were executed four days after their arrests and again in June at the warehouse in Tampa where more than six pounds of chemicals were found along with drug paraphernalia. In the home that Piya and Hossain shared, documents of the transactions leading back to the Chinese purchases were uncovered as well as more drug paraphernalia.

At Khalifa’s residence, federal agents found ledgers citing sales of Spice and other label brand names of the Schedule I controlled substances which included jars containing mixtures of PB-22, XLR-11 and 5-fluoro AB-PINACA, all chemicals listed in the 2012 law as banned.

Cash was also seized at each of the three residences of the four defendants.

All four were charged by indictment with conspiracy to import Spice to the United States from China.

In late August, all four defendants pleaded guilty to the charges filed against them. As part of his plea deal, Hossain, the alleged mastermind of the conspiracy agreed to the forfeiture of assets which totaled over $1.5 million as well as property he owns in St. Petersburg, Florida. He faces a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison for each charge of conspiracy to import a Schedule l controlled substance, and conspiracy to manufacture, possess with intent to manufacture and distribute the same. His wife who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import drug paraphernalia also agreed to the forfeiture of assets totaling over $150,000 as well as property in St. Petersburg. She faces a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Khalifa and Elhelw agreed to the forfeiture of assets of $472,780 in addition to the same charges and penalties of incarceration that Hossain has agreed to.

Sentencing will be scheduled before U.S. District Court Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks in West Palm Beach.

Michael Cohen is a board certified Fort Lauderdale based criminal trial lawyer who is committed to the vigorous defense of all federal and state criminal allegations specializing in cases relating to all types of drug charges. He has offices in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Florida and is a member in good standing of both the New York and Florida Bars. He is also admitted to practice law in the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York and the Eleventh Circuit which incorporates the entire State of Florida.

Formerly an Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting cases for the government and an Assistant State Attorney for Broward County, now practicing as a criminal defense attorney to the public for the past fifteen years. In cases such as these, there is no substitute for experience.

If you, a friend or loved one is facing charges that may relate to any types of charges involving the importation, possession, trafficking or distribution of illegal drugs, whether organic or synthetic call now for a free consultation and case evaluation. To view Michael Cohen’s complete attorney profile visit his website.