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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Eighteen people in four states, including 10 from northern Virginia, have been arrested for allegedly operating an international trafficking ring that distributed nearly 10,000 pounds of the illegal African drug known as khat, authorities announced Thursday.

    Prosecutors in U.S. District Court in Alexandria charged Yonis Muhudin Ishak of Arlington as the conspiracy's ringleader. He allegedly paid a network of couriers $1,000 each for trips to London to fetch fresh batches of khat, a leaf that gives users a high when chewed.

    The drug is popular in East Africa. Of the 18 arrested, all were natives of Somalia or Yemen.

    John Torres, a special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations in Washington, estimated the khat's street value at $5 million. The trafficking ring had been in operation since at least 2005, according to court records.

    The size and scope of the bust makes the case unusual for ICE, Torres said, because previous cases involving khat have not involved such large-scale trafficking. More than a dozen local and federal law-enforcement agencies participated in the investigation, which began in August 2009.

    In 2006, federal prosecutors in New York indicted 44 people in a scheme that allegedly involved 50,000 pounds of khat over multiple years.

    In addition to the 10 arrests in northern Virginia, two others were arrested in Maryland, four in New York, and two in Ohio.


    MAY 19, 2011, 3:14 P.M. ET
    Associated Press

    http://online.wsj.com/article/AP6ca7d9cd69bd441885bc68202e3ee43c.html

Comments

  1. Terrapinzflyer
    18 arrested in Va. ring that trafficked 9,700 pounds of khat

    Eighteen people have been charged in what prosecutors say was a khat-trafficking ring that distributed thousands of pounds of the drug in the Washington region and other areas.

    Authorities say the ring trafficked more than 4.4 million grams -- or about 9,700 pounds -- of khat. Ten people were arrested Wednesday in Northern Virginia, two in Maryland, four in New York and two in Ohio.

    A criminal complaint filed in federal court in Alexandria was unsealed after they were taken into custody.

    They paid couriers to transport khat into the United States from England, Canada and Holland, or sent packages of khat through the mail, the complaint says.

    Khat is an illegal narcotic that's typically chewed like tobacco, but it can also be smoked or sprinkled on food, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. It contains the drug cathinone and is classified as a Schedule I narcotic, like drugs that include PCP and Ecstasy. It produces feelings of euphoria but regular use can lead to paranoia, irritability and depression.

    All of those arrested have been charged with conspiracy to distribute cathinone. If convicted, they could face up to 20 years in prison.

    Prosecutors named Yonis Ishak, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia who lives in Arlington, as the ring's leader.

    He has directed at least 24 couriers to fly to England to obtain khat and smuggle it to the United States since November 2004, according to the complaint.

    U.S. officials have intercepted more than 800 khat packages connected to the conspiracy.

    Khat sells for about $600 a kilogram, the complaint says. That means the trafficked drugs were worth more than $2.6 million.

    The traffickers aimed to smuggle the khat to the United States before it degraded into a less-potent substance, the complaint says.

    Wiretap conversations reveal the conspirators discussing the freshest khat, called "Giza" for $120 to $200 per bundle, three to seven times the typical price for khat.

    The investigation into the ring began in 2009, when officials noticed connections between khat seizures.

    Ishak, who came to the United States in 1990 using a fraudulent passport but was granted asylum based on allegations of persecution in Somalia, was charged in 2005 with assaulting a federal officer while waiting for a khat courier at the Newark International Airport. When Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents approached him, he fled the scene in his vehicle, striking an officer. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation, court records show.


    By: Emily Babay
    05/19/11 8:05 PM

    http://washingtonexaminer.com/local...-arrested-va-ring-trafficked-9700-pounds-khat
  2. Herbal Healer 019
    Wow seriously?!

    I had no idea khat was illegal in the states. Booooo........
  3. Terrapinzflyer
    Generaly speaking Khat itself is not banned (may be in some cities/states) But Cathinone is Schedule I federally, and is controlled in many states as well. Cathine was also emergency scheduled back in the 80's but as far as I know that has expired/was never made permanent.

    There was a huge Khat importation/distribution bust in Seattle back in 2006?. Ultimately charges where dropped, though I can't say for sure that no one involved hadn't taken a plea deal before charges were dropped.

    Generally speaking it is very much a grey area- importation or distribution is quite likely to bring search/arrest/charges. And I have heard of cases (maine, and maybe ohio or kentucky?) that I think led to convictions- though I can't say if it was overturned on appeal or not.
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