28 Sentenced for “Spice” Manufacturing and Distribution in Tucson

The last of twenty-eight defendants charged in two sweeping investigations into the manufacture and distribution of the controlled substance commonly referred to as “spice,” a synthetic cannabinoid made with chemicals, was federally sentenced on December 10 in United States District Court.

The twenty-eight defendants were charged and convicted of a variety of crimes including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance analogue, conspiracy to engage in interstate travel in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, and money laundering.

As part of their sentences, the twenty-eight individuals forfeited, among other things, six residences, one business, twelve vehicles, $532,158 in U.S. currency, and obtained money judgments in the amount of $1,335,402.

The National Institute of Health describes synthetic cannabinoids as human-made, mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed or dried, shredded plant material that can be smoked, or sold as liquid to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices. Synthetic cannabinoids are often labeled as “not for human consumption,” and may claim they contain natural materials, however they are dangerous chemicals that bind to the same receptors in the brain as THC and may have unpredictable effects.

Two separate multi-year investigations conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Border Patrol (CBP), U.S. Marshal Service (USMS), Tucson Police Department, South Tucson Police Department, Casa Grande Police Department and the Sahuarita Police Department, discovered that “spice” suppliers in Colorado and Arizona imported the precursor chemicals from China, and manufactured the controlled substances in Long Beach, California and Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona. The suppliers then distributed the controlled substances primarily to local smoke shops in Tucson, South Tucson, Dallas/Fort Worth, and other cities, where they were ultimately sold to drug users. The twenty-eight defendants each pleaded guilty and were convicted and sentenced as follows:

On December 10, 2020, Madji Khaleq, of Denver, Colorado, was sentenced to four years of probation for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and controlled substance analogues. $164,944 in United States currency and $25,320 in money orders were forfeited. Khaleq is also required to pay a personal money judgment in the amount of $75,837 to the United States.

On November 8, 2018, Ana Patricia Hidalgo-Hernandez, of Long Beach, California, was sentenced to time served in prison, followed by three years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Introduce Misbranded Drugs into Interstate Commerce.

On November 30, 2017, Najib Alghaithi, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to twenty-four months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substance Analogues. $66,299 in United States currency was forfeited.

On October 20, 2020, Abdulkader Alghaithi, of Tucson, Arizona was sentenced to thirty-six months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release for Conspiracy Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, Possession with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, and Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substance Analogues. The government forfeited Alghaithi’s vehicle and residence.

On July 12, 2018, Jamil Qasem, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to forty-two months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances and Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substance Analogues. Qasem is also required to pay $40,000 to the United States.

On January 18, 2018, Mazin Saleh, 36, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to four years of probation for Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud. The government seized $5,000 in lieu of Saleh’s vehicle.

On January 23, 2018, Muhieldin Muhieldin, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to three years of probation for Receiving Misbranded Drugs in Interstate Commerce.

On January 4, 2018, Nasser Farah, of Chicago, Illinois, was sentenced to three years of probation for Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances.

On June 29, 2017, Davoud Shayan, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to time served followed by one year of supervised release for Introduction of Misbranded Drugs in Interstate Commerce.

On August 15, 2017, Denice Michael, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to two years of probation for Receipt of Misbranded Drugs in Interstate Commerce.

On January 23, 2018, Kholoud Hamdi, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to three years of probation for Introduction of Misbranded Drugs in Interstate Commerce.

On January 5, 2018, Sharif Hamdi, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to fourteen months in prison followed by one year of supervised release for Introduction of Misbranded Drugs in Interstate Commerce.

On June 21, 2017, Junior Jacklick, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to time served, for the Introduction of Misbranded Drugs in Interstate Commerce.

On June 6, 2017, Qasem Mahmoud Shahin, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to two years of probation for Receipt of Misbranded Drugs in Interstate Commerce.

On June 22, 2017, Adam Hassan, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to two years of probation for Receipt of Misbranded Drugs in Interstate Commerce.

On February 21, 2018, Abdulaziz Shahin, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to twenty-seven months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance and Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substance Analogues. Shahin is also required to pay $14,565 to the United States.

On November 8, 2017, Nasir Ibrahim, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to thirteen months and one day in prison followed by one year of supervised release for Receiving Misbranded Drugs in Interstate Commerce.

On August 9, 2019, Samuel Salomon of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to thirty-six month in prison followed by three years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances and Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments. The government forfeited Salomon’s residence, two other parcels of land, his smoke shops, two vehicles, and $15,801 for the sale of a third vehicle. Samuel Salomon is also required to pay $1,200,000 to the United States.

On September 4, 2019, Daniel Salomon, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to six months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments.

On November 13, 2019, Ardell Addington, of Evansville, Wyoming, was sentenced to time served followed by three years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances and Controlled Substances Analogues.

On June 18, 2019, Renee Salomon, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to four years of probation for Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments. Renee Salomon is also required to pay $50,000 to the United States.

On August 9, 2019, Rodolfo Alvarez Samaniego, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to two years of probation for Causing the Introduction of Misbranded Drugs in Interstate Commerce.

On June 7, 2019, Mauro Acuna, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to three years of probation for Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances and Controlled Substance Analogues.

On January 22, 2020, Anabel Valdez, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to two years of probation for Receipt of Misbranded Drugs in Interstate Commerce.

On March 19, 2018, Jose Edmundo Gradillas, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to two years of probation for Receipt of Misbranded Drugs in Interstate Commerce.

On June 11, 2019, Alfred Manuel Gamez, Jr., of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to three years of probation Receipt of Misbranded Drugs in Interstate Commerce.

On March 16, 2018, Daniel James Garcia, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to four years of probation for Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substances and/or Analogues and Conspiracy to Laundering of Monetary Instruments.

On July 3, 2018, Damien Ismail Sanchez, of Tucson, Arizona, was sentenced to two years of probation for Receipt of Misbranded Drugs in Interstate Commerce.

The investigations were conducted by agencies participating in the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The partner agencies include the DEA, IRS-CI, FBI, HSI, CBP, USMS, Tucson Police Department, South Tucson Police Department, Casa Grande Police Department and the Sahuarita Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew G. Eltringham, District of Arizona, Tucson, handled the prosecutions.


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