LITTLE ROCK, AR- The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is calling this the largest-ever synthetic drug takedown. Local and federal police agencies teamed up in 35 states and 5 countries to crack down hard on synthetic drugs Wednesday.
DEA Assistant Special Agent Bill Bryant said these synthetic drugs, which consist of K2, spice and bath salts, are highly dangerous.
“When users us it, it's really Russian roulette because they don't know what they're putting in their body's. They're getting the chemical compounds in China or India, smuggle it into the US and they complete the manufacturing process here," said Bill Bryant, Assistant Special Agent DEA.
Wednesday morning, investigators arrested 36-year-old Amjad Kattom, 34-year-old Sahar Kattom, 37-year-old Yousef Qattoum, 50-year-old Abdul Aziz Farishta, and 20-year-old Adam Kattoum with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and analogues of controlled substances. 23-year-old Eassa Rawashdeh was also charged in the complaint, but wasn’t arrested. Police are asking the public to contact law enforcement if you see Rawashdeh.
The complaint alleges the six suspects conspired to sell synthetic drugs from several tobacco and retail stores in Central Arkansas, including Sunshine Food, Sunshine Mart, Woodrow Discount Store, Joseph’s Discount Store, Smokey’s Discount Tobacco, and Hip Hop Sportwear, from July 2012 through June 25, 2013.
“These stores that we seized it at, kept it under the counter, they didn't display it. We made undercover buys with confidential sources and undercover agents," explained Bryant.
Business owners we talked to in the area are shocked to hear about the recent crack down and fear it might hurt business. A big fear drug agents have is for these drugs to fall into the wrong hands.
“Kush, grape flavor, fairly legal, down to earth, comics, triple x, full throttle, if you look at these types of names, they target our teens and young adults," said Bryant.
DEA agents seized over 10-thousand dollars, several cars, over 10 pounds of synthetic drugs and a hand gun from the six suspects. Since December of 2012, more than 75 arrests have been made and nearly $15 million in cash and assets have been seized. On Wednesday, law enforcement made over 150 arrest warrants and nearly 375 search warrants in 35 states, 49 cities and five countries.
Synthetic drugs are illegal and law enforcement agencies are concerned about the recent jump in emergency room visits from synthetic drug overdose. Detectives said in 2010, there were about 11,500 emergency room visits. So far in 2013, that number nearly tripled to 30,000.