An eight-month investigation that ended Friday snared 15 people on charges of trafficking synthetic drugs that can cause hallucinations, seizures, paranoia, tremors and psychotic episodes, authorities said.
The South Florida-based investigation, called Operation Synthetic Web, netted three brothers: Durgham Suleiman, 37, of Parkland; Othman Suleiman, 36, of Boynton Beach, and Wakas Suleiman, 38, of Greenacres, authorities said.
The Drug Enforcement Administration said the Suleimans were the leaders of a drug-trafficking organization run from a Kwik Stop convenience store they owned and operated at 199 W. Hillsboro Blvd. in Deerfield Beach.
Undercover agents made 11 purchases since April at several Broward convenience stores. The DEA said the drugs were sold at stores in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Marion, Manatee and Hendry counties as well.
Large amounts of designer drugs were sold in solid and liquid form, investigators said.
Agents said they seized about 80 kilograms of leaf-based synthetics known as Spice, Cloud Nine, WTF and Bomb Marley with a street value of approximately $200,000.
They also confiscated about 4,000 vials of liquid-based synthetic products, known as Diablo, with an estimated street value of $160,000. Diablo is consumed through e-cigarettes and other vaporizers.
Some of the packets were sold to teenagers for between $14 and $25 if they knew a code word to purchase the products, agents said.
During the investigation, agents identified Maisar Omar Atalla, 52, and Mustafa Muhammad Abdelhamid, 34, both of Pembroke Pines, as the suppliers of the leaf-based synthetic products.
Israel Chaim Nachmoni, 23, of Aventura, has been identified as the supplier of the liquid-based synthetic drug, investigators said.
Agents also learned the group was dealing in stolen property.
Donvelles Cornelius Stone, 36, of Deerfield Beach, and Charlisa Nicole Franklin, 30, of Riviera Beach, stole $37,126 worth of appliances and other home merchandise from Lowe's Home Improvement Centers throughout Florida, the DEA said.
Also arrested were Ziad Rida Bazyan, 25, Ameen Basen Awadallah, 26, and Abed Shawabka, 52, all of Coconut Creek, Yihad Atalla Salama, 22, of Pembroke Pines; Mahmoud Musa Bazian, 34, of Boca Raton; and Salah Ismail Awad, 53, of Ocala. Thomas Edwin Lewis, 46, was already in the Broward County Jail, investigators said.
There has been a concentrated government crackdown on fake marijuana, "bath salts" and lab-concocted drugs of all types. Attorney General Pam Bondi outlawed some illicit chemical compounds by an emergency order on Oct. 9, 2013.
The charges in this case range from racketeering and money laundering to smuggling contraband into a jail and the unlawful use of a two-way communication device, records show.
The DEA worked with the Broward, Palm Beach and Hendry County Sheriff's Offices, Pembroke Pines Police, Miami Gardens Police and the Attorney General's Office of Statewide Prosecution during the course of Operation Synthetic Web.