116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Cedar Rapids — A former Cedar Rapids man who fled the country in 2014 after agreeing to plead to conspiracy to distribute synthetic marijuana was convicted by a jury this week in federal court.
Mohammad Al Sharairei, 47, was convicted Monday following a four-day trial of one count of maintaining a premises for the distribution of controlled substance analogues and one count of conspiring to distribute controlled substance analogues.
Al Sharairei owned the former Puff N’Stuff II Tobacco Outlet, 1545 First Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids, that was busted in a national crackdown that started in 2012 on the K2 synthetic marijuana substance.
K2 was usually sold as bath salts or incense but was smoked like marijuana, and many contained illegal substances. The store was raided in 2013, and several other businesses were raided and owners arrested in Eastern Iowa in an 2014 enforcement.
Evidence at trial showed that federal agents raided Al Sharairei’s store and seized thousands of packets of K2, which were labeled as “novelty items,” “potpourri,” and “incense.” Each contained a warning that the products were “not for human consumption.” Some of the substances were called Bizarro, Grave Digger and Lights Out.
The packages contained synthetic cannabinoids, according to testimony. These substances are far more potent than marijuana and have been associated with severe psychological and physical effects, including death.
According to trial evidence, despite labeling the products as “not for human consumption” and having a store policy that customers could not talk about smoking the products, Al Sharairei himself smoked the “incense.”
Seized store records from Puff N Stuff II showed that between January 2012 and June 26, 2013, the store had sold over $1.3 million in synthetic cannabinoid products.
Al Sharairei, after fleeing the country, remained a fugitive until he was extradited back from Brazil. According to U.S. marshals, he and his wife, Melissa, were arrested in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in February 2019 on a local charge and turned over on the federal warrant in January.
U.S. District Chief Judge Leonard Strand will sentence Al Sharairei after a presentence report is prepared.
He faces a possible maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, a $1.5 million fine and up to a lifetime of supervised release following any prison term. He also faces up to $425,000 in forfeiture of proceeds of his drug operation.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Chatham and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Vander Stoep. It was investigated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program of the U.S. Department of Justice through a cooperative effort of the Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force, Internal Revenue Service, and Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations.
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