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Synthetic Drug Indictments and Raids Net Dozens of Defendants

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Indictments were unsealed Wednesday in Memphis and Jackson, TN naming 40 people alleged to be part of the synthetic drug trade in West Tennessee, announced U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton III; Resident Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Memphis office Brian Chambers; and Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich.

“Project Synergy,” a DEA initiative, is the largest-ever coordinated law enforcement strike against designer drugs, targeting manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of more than 250 synthetic drugs being abused every day in the United States and globally. This initiative was conducted in conjunction with prosecutors in Memphis and Jackson as part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program, which seeks to reduce the availability of drugs by disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations, money laundering organizations and related criminal enterprises.

“As alleged, the defendants were involved in an international web of distributing illegal synthetic drugs at numerous retail establishments throughout West Tennessee and beyond, many lining their pockets with multi-million-dollar profits,” said U.S. Attorney Stanton. “Today’s indictments, arrests and seizures demonstrate that the manufacturing, distribution and purchase of these highly addictive and potentially lethal substances will not be tolerated, and those who are brazen enough to sell this poison, particularly to our children and young adults, will be held accountable. I thank the DEA for their diligent efforts with this case over the past two years and the more than 400 federal, state and local law enforcement officials who took part in today’s sweeping take down throughout the Western District of Tennessee.”

After a two-year investigation involving federal state and local law enforcement, hundreds of purchases and seizures were made from more than 34 different storefronts in the Western District of Tennessee. During today’s takedown more than 76 search warrants and 35 arrest warrants were executed.

“Stopping the flow of synthetic drugs both domestically and internationally is a major focal point at DEA,” said Michael J Stanfill, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Nashville United States Attorney Edward L. Stanton III Western District of Tennessee District Office. “In doing so, we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to disrupt the flow of these dangerous substances. This case was successful because of the true spirit of cooperation between all agencies involved.”

Officials said the drugs seized in this investigation generally fall into two categories: synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones. Synthetic cannabinoids, often known by the street names “Spice” or “K2,” mimic the hallucinogenic effects of marijuana with the added side effects of hallucinations, seizures, and dependency/addiction not usually associated with marijuana users.

Synthetic cathinones, better known as “bath salts” or “plant food,” produce a high similar to methamphetamine, MDMA or cocaine. Abusers experience chest pain, increased blood pressure, agitation, panic attacks, irrational behavior, hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, and even heart attacks and strokes.

"The sellers of synthetic drugs specifically target our young people," said District Attorney General Weirich. "We will not sit back and ignore this threat to our children and to the entire community."

The following individuals were indicted by a federal grand jury in Memphis:

• Ali S. Abdelrahim, 51, Collierville, TN, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count.

• Maged Ali-Ahmed Abdullah, 45, Memphis, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Samer Abu-Atiyeh, age, address, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Kadhim Almaslouk, 43, Memphis, TN, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.
• Yousef Al Sharif, 39, Cordova, TN, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count.

• Sung Su An, 44, Collierville, TN, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Emad Bahhur, 57, Germantown, TN, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count.

• Fayez Bahhur, 32, Cordova, TN, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count. The money laundering charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and fine of up to half a million dollars.

• Lewis Cochran, 42, Olive Branch, MS, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count.

• Pamela Cochran, 42, Olive Branch, MS, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted she faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count.

• Gary Geiser, 63, Memphis, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, one count of money laundering, and one count of structuring. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count. The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and the fine of up to half a million dollars. The money laundering charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to half a million dollars. The structuring charge carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to half a million dollars.

• Lisa Gertz, 50, Memphis, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted she faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Abdul Aziz Isani, 69, Olive Branch, MS, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Nabil Mawlawi, 48, Memphis, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Cameron Marcrum, 31, address unknown, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count. The money laundering charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and the fine of up to half a million dollars.

• Jonathan Martin, age and address unknown, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count.

• Crystal McCracken, 26, Memphis, charged in two separate indictments with a total of three counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted she faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count.

• Linda Montgomery, 61, Memphis, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted she faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count. The money laundering charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and the fine of up to half a million dollars.

• Fuad Murshed, 31, Memphis, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count.

• Daniel Pendergrass, 66, Memphis, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count. The money laundering charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and the fine of up to half a million dollars.

• Mohammed Al Rawahneh, 28, Germantown, TN, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count.

• James Sexton, 38, Memphis, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count.

• Robert Snyder, 33, Memphis, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count.

• Max Suh, 40, Collierville, TN, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for the conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million. The money laundering charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and the fine of up to half a million dollars.

• Abdel Kareem Mohammad Taha, 23, Cordova, TN, charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million for each count.

• Max Terhune, 29, Memphis, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Donald Tyler, 43, Memphis, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Umar Yusuf, a/k/a “Umar Hussein”, 34, Bartlett, TN, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

The following individuals were indicted by a federal grand jury in Jackson, TN:

• Hassan “Sam” Safa, 40, Jackson, TN, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute and five counts of possession with intent to distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Ehab “Mark” Rezk, 37, Jackson, TN, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute, and 56 counts of structuring. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for the conspiracy count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million. The structuring charge carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to half a million dollars for each count.

• Ali Safa, 43, New York City, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute and one count of possession with intent to distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Mahmoud, “Steve” Safa, 46, Jackson, TN, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute and two counts of possession with intent to distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Mohamed Khalil, 57, Jackson, TN, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Hussein Salloukh, 25, Jackson, TN, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute and one count of possession with intent to distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Nazem Salloukh, 52, Jackson, TN, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute and one count of possession with intent to distribute. I If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Ahmad, a/k/a Ahmed “Eddie” Elsebae, 51, Jackson, TN, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute and one count of possession with intent to distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Akram Nagi, 26, Jackson, TN, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute and one count of possession with intent to distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Paula Nell Kirk, 46, Jackson, TN, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute and two counts of possession with intent to distribute. If convicted she faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Irene Rosas-Montalvo, 33, Jackson, TN, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute. If convicted she faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

• Hani Tarhini, 46, Panama City, FL, charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute and one count of possession with intent to distribute. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for each count. If previously convicted of a drug crime, the sentence could be up to 30 years and the fine up to $2 million.

Search warrants were also served on the following businesses:

Tobacco Box, 1740 N. Germantown Pkwy., Suite 10, Cordova, TN

Tobacco Zone, 1319 N. Germantown Pkwy., Cordova, TN

Tobacco Zone, 2857 Kirby #115, Memphis, TN

Tobacco Hut Smoke Shop, 5119 Summer Avenue, #103, Memphis TN

Buddy’s Smoke, address unavailable

Cooper Young Glassworks, 906 S. Cooper St., Memphis, TN

Gonzo’s Smoke Shop, 2125 Sycamore View Rd., Memphis, TN

Smoke N More, 1775 N. Germantown Pkwy., Cordova, TN

A&P Tobacco, 3878 Austin Peay Hwy., Memphis, TN

Wizards (store), 1999 Madison Ave., Memphis, TN

Wizards (warehouse) 11 S. Morrison, Memphis, TN

Friendly Quick Stop, 5510 Stage Rd., Bartlett, TN

Tobacco Etc., 6600 Stage Rd., #128, Bartlett, TN

Tobacco Express, 4520 Summer Ave., #1, Memphis, TN

Humidor Tobacco, 1166 N. Houston Levee, #104, Memphis, TN

Whatever, 610 S. Highland, Memphis, TN

CubeSmart (Storage facility used by Whatever), 2700 Poplar, storage unit B8, Memphis, TN

Tobacco Max, 6730 Winchester Rd., Memphis, TN

Highland Smoke Shop, 571 S. Highland, Memphis, TN

Tobacco Superstore, 7464 Winchester Rd., Suite 104, Memphis, TN

Tobacco World, 4621 Quince, Memphis, TN

Longtown BP, 3965 Hwy 59, Mason, TN

Half-Price Smoke Shop, 5520 Summer Ave., Suite 104, Memphis, TN

Tobacco World Smoke Shop, 640 South Highland, Memphis, TN

Superway Gas Station, 26 Bowling Dr., Jackson, TN

Always Save Grocery Store, 419 E. College St., Jackson, TN

Superway Gas Station, 795 Airways Blvd., Jackson, TN

Superway Discount Tobacco & Gas, 1435 Riverside Dr., Jackson, TN

Q-Mart/Superway Gas Station, 2990 East End Dr., Humboldt, TN

Superway/On the Go, 151 Law Rd., Jackson, TN

Zazz Lube and Wash, 2739 N. Highland Ave., Jackson, TN

Citgo, 105/107 Carriage House Dr., Jackson, TN

McKenzies Food Fare/Market, 2857 Airways Blvd., Jackson, TN


This investigation was conducted by the DEA Memphis Drug Task Force, the United States Marshals Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Memphis Police Department, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, the Bartlett Police Department, the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, and the Jackson Police Department. These cases are being prosecuted for the government by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Scruggs and Assistant United States Attorney Matt Wilson.