A Gainesville, Virginia, man pleaded guilty Wednesday to selling synthetic cannabinoids — commonly known as “spice” or “K2” — from the gas station he owned and operated with his business partner in Fauquier County.
“Spice is a toxic mix of dangerous chemicals that can be deadly,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a news release. “These chemicals can mimic the effects of PCP, a powerful and dangerous hallucinogenic. Many people wrongly assume spice is innocuous, and it is often our young people who fall victim to these illegal drugs, obtaining them at gas stations and convenience stores without any idea how dangerous they can be.”
According to court documents, Nasser A. Latif, 70, and his business partner have sold spice from their gas station near Opal, since 2012. Latif and his partner primarily sold 5-gram packets of spice, packaged in silver pouches bearing various logos, brand names, or images; including “Scooby Doo,” “Diablo,” “Bizarro,” and “24 Monkey.” The spice cost at least $53 per packet.
“We appreciate the tremendous working relationships with our law enforcement partners that resulted in holding these perpetrators accountable,” said Sheriff Robert P. Mosier of Fauquier County. “This investigation has undoubtedly saved lives by getting these synthetic or “designer drugs” off the street, which were responsible for medical occurrences, some even requiring hospitalizations. We will always work with vigilance for the continued protection of our community from those that would exploit the weaknesses associated with addictions.”
“For years, these individuals sold their illicit products in our community, profiting from their toxic and deadly goods,” said Raymond Villanueva, special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington D.C. field office. “HSI is committed to taking individuals peddling dangerous substances off our streets.”
In December 2017, law enforcement seized more than seven kilograms of spice, as well as nearly $300,000 in cash from Latif’s residence, as well as approximately $118,000 from the gas station’s business account.
Latif pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute, and possession with intent to distribute, Schedule I controlled substances and controlled substance analogues. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when sentenced on March 27. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal-district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Robert P. Mosier, Fauquier County Sheriff; Raymond Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C.; and Jesse R. Fong, Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Rossie D. Alston accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Katherine E. Rumbaugh and Bibeane Metsch are prosecuting the case.