A massive drug raid Thursday led to the arrest of three people in Hamilton and the recovery of cash, weapons and more than $1 million in synthetic drugs.
Police officers served 19 search warrants on six businesses and nine residences. The warrants were conducted in several jurisdictions in both Butler and Hamilton counties.
Officers recovered more than 51,600 packets of synthetic drugs with a value of more than $1 million, as well as drug paraphernalia, $210,000 in cash and four handguns.
The raids were the result of a long-term Hamilton Police Department investigation of trafficking in synthetic marijuana on the following Hamilton businesses: Wireless A, 938 Main St.; Pleasant Avenue Wireless & Smoke Shop, 2263 Pleasant Ave.; CK Wireless, 1595 S Erie Hwy.; Bonkerz, 1413 Main St.; and EZ Wireless, 1035 High St.
In addition, Hamilton police and the Ohio Investigative Unit have been working on a joint investigation into the trafficking of synthetic marijuana at Sycamore Market, 602 Sycamore St., Hamilton.
Arrested were Tariq Mosa Abuawad, 30, of Wittenburg Drive in Fairfield, and Tareq Ahmed Saleem Odeh, 27, of Malvern Place in Cincinnati. Both men were born in Palestine, according to police reports.
Abuawad, who worked at Sycamore Market, was charged with drug abuse, a fourth-degree felony. Odeh was arrested at a location on Belle Avenue and Dixie Highway and charged with felony drug trafficking, a fourth-degree felony, after being arrested on other warrants.
Also arrested was Erin Leona Wilson, 21, of East Sycamore Street in Oxford. Wilson, a Miami University student from Amelia, was arrested at her place of employment, a wireless store on Main Street in Hamilton, for having “a baggie of the green vegetation” in her purse, according to police reports. She is charged with fourth-degree misdemeanor drug abuse.
As part of the investigation, OIU also issued administrative citations against liquor licenses, reflecting violations of drug sales, drug possession, drug paraphernalia sales, drug paraphernalia possession and receiving stolen property.
OIU agents are plain-clothed, fully sworn peace officers. The OIU is charged with enforcing the state’s liquor laws and is the only state law enforcement agency specifically tasked with investigating food stamp fraud crimes. Agents also investigate tobacco violations.
The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are expected, police said.
There was no evidence of a growing operation at any of the Hamilton businesses, according to Hamilton police Detective Richard Burkhardt.
Further information will be provided once the investigation has been concluded, police said.
Providing assistance during the operation were the Butler County Sheriff’s Office, Butler County Prosecutor’s Office, Fairfield Police Department, West Chester Police Department and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.
Police say the sale of synthetic drugs has been on the rise in the area and officers have had contact with subjects from other counties, as well as other states, who have driven to Hamilton for the sole purpose of purchasing these drugs.
Synthetic cannabinoids, also known as synthetic marijuana, herbal incense and potpourri, and popularly known by the brand names Spice and K2, were linked to 11,406 of the 4.9 million drug related emergency department visits in 2010, according to a report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The substance often contains synthetic cannabinoids and may contain substituted or synthetic cathinones, synthetic halucinogens, substituted phenethylamines, controlled substance analogues or other controlled substances.
In the past year, Hamilton Police Department has received numerous complaints of juveniles and adults purchasing herbal incense from businesses in Hamilton.
Synthetic marijuana is often many more times potent than regular cannabis, according to police. The packaging often times depicts cartoon characters or other pictures or symbols enticing to a younger crowd such as “Scooby Snax,” “Joker,” “Mad Hatter,” “Bomb Marley,” “Iron Man,” “I Blown,” “OMG,” “Mind Trip,” “Mad Monkey” and many others.
Young people were some of the most common consumers of the drugs and people between the ages of 12 and 29 accounted for three out of four emergency room visits involving synthetic marijuana, the administration said. The average age of users of marijuana who sought emergency medical assistance was 30.