Six indicted in synthetic drug probe of Louisville smoke shops
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Six people were indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury Tuesday in connection with the alleged sale of synthetic drugs at four Louisville smoke shops.
Naser Alfawair, 47, Mohammed Faory, 50, Thamir Faory, 24, Fadi Faouri, 32, Mohammed Kassim, 25, and Shadi AlFaouri, 30, were each indicted on five felony counts -- trafficking in synthetic drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia, engaging in an organized criminal syndication, criminal simulation and use and investment of drug-related income.
They will be arraigned at 10 a.m. Monday in Jefferson Circuit Court.
The six suspects were charged following investigations by police and WDRB News, which reported its findings last week.
In July, WDRB News twice purchased vials of “Bizarro” from Shop Today Smoke Shop in Hikes Point – once using a 17-year-old, and a second time using a reporter. Lab tests showed the vials contained AB-PINACA, a chemical banned by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency last year because it can cause hallucinations and racing heartbeats, among other ill effects.
After a subsequent police raid, Mohammad Faory, Thamir Faory, Fadi Faouri, Shadi Faquri and Kassim Mohammed were charged.
Naser Alfawair wasn't initially charged, but he was indicted Tuesday because he is listed as an owner of the Shop Today Smoke Shop in Hikes Point.
Attorneys for the five initial suspects have said heir clients are innocent.
Arrests for synthetic drug charges have been on the rise for at least four years, according to LMPD statistics. Last year, police made 253 arrests, up from 73 in 2011. Police are on track for even more arrests this year, with 164 through June 17.
WDRB's investigation revealed that even though the substances are illegal, it’s not hard for teens to buy them in Louisville.
At the request of WDRB, a local high school student visited eight smoke shops and convenience stores in the area looking for Bizarro or Cloud 9.
The 17-year-old was turned down six times before he walked into the Shop Today Smoke Shop on Hunsinger Lane in Hikes Point. After the teen asked for Bizarro, a clerk retrieved a bottle of it from behind the counter and sold it for $25.
A week later, WDRB sent reporter Tamara Evans with a hidden camera into the same shop. She was able to buy a bottle of Bizarro for the same price.
The station then had the bottles tested at a California laboratory, which confirmed they contained AB-PINACA.
At the start of its six-month investigation, WDRB alerted authorities that it planned to buy illegal drugs as part of the station’s reporting. Aware of the station’s work, the DEA also made undercover buys at Shop Today Smoke Shop and found the liquid contained the illegal ingredients.
Then on Oct. 13, Louisville Metro Police raided the smoke shop and three others that police say are owned by Mohammad Faory and his family members. LMPD had been investigating the shop since June after a complaint of illegal activity. In addition to the four businesses, police also searched two Louisville residences.
“We recovered some liquid spice, some solid spice, a large amount of cash and some firearms,” LMPD Det. Steve Healey told WDRB.
Police and doctors say synthetic marijuana is increasingly linked to overdoses, seizures, aggression and suicidal behavior in the Louisville area.
These substances often contain components chemically similar to THC -- the active ingredient in marijuana -- but are more dangerous than pot, and manufacturers are constantly creating new products to circumvent the laws designed to ban them, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter. Reporter Tamara Evans can be reached at 502-585-0808 or @TamaraWDRB on Twitter.
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