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Synthetic Drug Crack Down
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) During a week of police raids all across the corridor and across the country to crack down on synthetic drugs, federal agents are not just going after the stashes. Often finding it difficult to stop the sale and use of the leafy materials that are sprayed with chemicals and then smoked, agents are now hitting accused dealers where it hurts, their bank accounts.
In a 27 page criminal complaint from U.S. District Court, prosecutors outline a lucrative synthetic drug operation they say netted a Cedar Rapids couple mountains of cash in a very short time. According to court documents, federal agents raided Puff N Stuff II last June, a tobacco shop in the 1500 block of First Avenue S.E.
The materials found there and evidence of profits from the sale of that material are at the heart of an effort to seize assets from Melissa and Mohammad Al Sharairei, including one home in Cedar Rapids and three more in Des Moines, according to the criminal complaint.
Undercover agents say prior to the raid, they made several purchases of materials that later tested positive for synthetics, including products called Bizarro, K2, Mad Hatter and Dirty Blonde. In court documents, agents say the couple told them that earlier raids on other stores in the area made Puff N Stuff II one of the few places to buy the products.
Documents show they told agents that during that period, they often made $20,000 a day and brought in more than $1.3 Million in 18 months.
A bright pink sign now hangs on the door of the shop as an official notice that it is not safe for human habitation. Bryan Ruiz stops to read the sign and asks if they were shut down? He says everyone in the neighborhood knew exactly what was for sale inside.
He says some of his friends went to the hospital after using synthetic drugs and he saw others suffer the symptoms, It makes you lose your mind .. it just puts you in a different place than where you are and practically makes you lost. Ruiz says its a good thing that police are cracking down, but he quickly adds, it probably wont make any difference, Some of the folks that I know that do the stuff .. I have no doubt theyll go somewhere else. Theyll just find it somewhere else.
Some police officers agree and say thats why the raids, prosecutions and seizures of property suspected of being purchased with synthetic drug money will continue.