(Newsroom America) -- Two men who acted as wholesalers for synthetic drugs across the Midwest, including Iowa, have been sentenced to a total of more than 40 years in federal prison. Muhammad Anwar, age 50, from West Des Moines, Iowa, received the prison term after an October 2015 jury verdict finding him guilty of conspiring to distribute controlled substances and conspiring to commit money laundering.
Ahmad Saeed, age 50, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, received the prison term after a September 2015 guilty plea to the same charges. Evidence at trial and at the sentencing hearing today showed that in about 2009, Saeed began purchasing synthetic drugs in order to provide them to convenience stores in Oklahoma, Iowa, and Missouri.
Witnesses testified that over an approximately three-year period from 2011 to early 2014, Saeed and Anwar purchased over 7 million grams of “spice” products for redistribution to these stores.
Sales of those substances generated millions of dollars in proceeds for Saeed, Anwar, and their suppliers. Evidence at Anwar’s trial showed that the packaging for the synthetic drug products he sold to the convenience stores bore some form of statement that the product was “not for human consumption.”
Despite the statements on the packaging, both men admitted they knew the synthetic drug products were being consumed by users. Anwar and Saeed were sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge John A. Jarvey. Anwar was sentenced to a total of 300 months’ imprisonment. Saeed was sentenced to a total of 210 months’ imprisonment.
A special assessment of $200 was imposed on each man, and both were ordered to forfeit $750,000 in drug proceeds to the United States. The searches that led to these prosecutions were conducted as a part of Project Synergy, a global takedown of synthetic drug manufacturers and distributors.
In Project Synergy enforcement actions between December 2012 and June 2014, more than 227 arrests were made and 416 search warrants served in 35 states, 49 cities and five countries, along with more than $51 million in cash and assets seized.
Altogether, 9,445 kilograms of individually packaged, ready-to-sell synthetic drugs, 299 kilograms of cathinone drugs (the falsely labeled “bath salts”), 1,252 kilograms of cannabinoid drugs (used to make the so-called “fake pot” or herbal incense products), and 783 kilograms of treated plant material were seized. Project Synergy was coordinated by DEA’s Special Operations Division, working with the DEA Office of Diversion Control, and included cases led by DEA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the FBI, and the IRS. In addition, law enforcement in Australia, Barbados, Panama, and Canada participated, as well as a multitude of state and local law enforcement members. Anwar and Saeed are being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until they can be transported to a federal prison.