Store Owners Charged With Selling Synthetic Drugs
The Food Land Mini Mart in Holiday has been selling synthetic drugs to kids and adults in violation of county and state law, according to deputies.
Pasco County Sheriff’s deputies have been paying frequent visits to the Food Land Mini Mart at 3444 Grand Blvd. in Holiday on suspicion the store sells synthetic drugs, despite a sign on the cash register saying it doesn't.
Starting in January, Detective Siobhan Meseda started investigating tips that numerous convenience stores were selling synthetic drugs to kids and adults, said Sgt. Bill Davis, with the agency’s vice and narcotics unit.
Food Land was one of those, Davis said.
The Sheriff’s Office started warning convenience stores in December that it was going to start enforcing the new county ordinance prohibiting possession, sale, provision or distribution of synthetic drugs. The ordinance penalizes stores that sell synthetic drugs.
Synthetic drugs have been a cause for a concern in Pasco. Two substances targeted by the ordinance, which is now in effect, are: synthetic marijuana, which also goes by the alias, Spice, K2, and a plethora of other names; and bath salts, which are meant to mimic cocaine.
The agency “received several tips that this store continued to sell these drugs despite the warnings from our Sheriff’s Office and the media,” Davis said.
Meseda arranged undercover purchases of drugs at the store. According to an arrest report, store co-owner Yasser Ahmed Hussin Elkalazani sold a confidential informant a five-gram bag of a synthetic marijuana brand called WTF in January. Store clerk Nashat Sehata sold an informant a 4-gram bag of synthetic marijuana brand Mad Hatter.
Samples were sent to the state, and tests found that they contained a cannabinoid outlawed by the state.
“Which basically meant that the stuff we were buying, the stuff they were selling, was now a felony,” Davis said.
Meseda also went to the store to write a citation and witnessed the store selling synthetic drugs to a 16-year-old boy, Davis said.
“They were warned again: stop doing this,” he said
The store was cited three times for violating the county ordnance, at $500 per citation.
On March 5, detectives arrested Elkalazani and Shehata. Each was charged with one count of sale of a controlled substance and one count of possession of a controlled substance
Days later, Meseda learned the store was still selling synthetic drugs. The agency conducted further undercover drug buys and sent them to the state. Tests came back positive for chemicals outlawed by the state. Deputies served a search warrant Tuesday, March 12. Davis said they found a synthetic drug called Mr. Happy in the store, Davis said.
Store co-owner Maha Hanna was arrested Tuesday. According to an arrest report, Hanna sold an informant a 10-gram bag of synthetic marijuana. She was charged with one count of sale of controlled substance and one count of possession of a controlled substance.
Meseda questioned Hanna on why she continued to sell the drugs and was told, “It was because of the money,” Davis said.
Davis said that deputies have continued to write citations. Right now the store has racked up a total fine of $7,500, Davis said.
“If that doesn’t send a message to the greed of these idiots selling this stuff in our community, I don’t know what else we can do,” he said.
Davis said he encouraged the state attorney’s office to prosecute cases like this.
All the suspects have been bonded out of jail and the store is still open, Davis said. The person behind the counter declined to comment to journalists and told them to leave the store. Then she called a deputy.
Davis said that other stores have abided by the county’s anti-Spice ordinance.
“I don’t want the impression to come out that every convenience store is selling this junk,” he said. “They’re not.”