A Gainesville man pleaded guilty Friday 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 sold spice from their gas station, the former Valero station on U.S. 29 near Opal, from 2012 to 2017. 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,” according to the court documents. The spice cost at least $53 per packet, federal prosecutors said.
“We appreciate the tremendous working relationships with our law enforcement partners that resulted in holding these perpetrators accountable,” Fauquier County Sheriff Robert P. Mosier said in the news release. “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,” Raymond Villanueva, special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations Washington D.C. field office, said in the news release. “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, according to the news release.
Latif pleaded guilty Friday, Jan. 10, 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, prosecutors said.