U.S. Attorney William Hochul, Jr. on Tuesday announced Fawzi Al-Arashi, 34, is accused of selling synthetic marijuana under names such as "Spice," "Pump It," "Strawberry Flavored Potpourri," "Atomic," "G-20," and "Strawberry Flavored Potpourri" at local outlets that included Town Tobacco in Tonawanda and Welcome, Welcome in North Tonawanda.
Hochul says it's believed to be biggest seizure of synthetic drugs in the region's history.
"This is believed to be the largest seizure of sythetic drugs in Western New York history by at least a factor of two," Hochul says.
The seizure includes more than 30,000 packets of synthetic drugs along with nearly $750,000.
Several months ago, the Los Angeles field office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) notified the Buffalo DEA field office of a suspect synthetic marijuana shipment destined for Buffalo, Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Pimentel, who is handling the case, said in a news release. The criminal complaint indicates the package was delivered to the Al-Arashi at 3407 Delaware Ave. in the town of Tonawanda, the home of Town Tobacco.
Throughout the investigation, local police received numerous complaints regarding the stores. One woman told police that her son was in the psychiatric ward at Erie County Medical Center after using synthetic marijuana that he bought at Town Tobacco.
A confidential informant (CI) told police the individual purchased well over $60,000 of "Spice" from the Al-Arashi between October 2011 and July 2012. During a recorded phone conversation, Al-Arashi told the CI that "they're all 100% federally legal," referring to the synthetic marijuana.
Al-Arashi on Tuesday made an initial court appearance before Judge Kenneth Schroeder. Bail was set at $15,000. The defendant is due back in court on July 27 at 4:30 p.m.