Authorities filed felony charges Thursday against 11 people arrested this week in police raids targeting illegal sales of synthetic marijuana.
The charges were filed in Wyandotte County, where Kansas City, Kan., police served search warrants at eight stores and three private homes after an 18-month investigation into the distribution of the substances known as K2 or spice.
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The Kansas City, Kan., action was part of a wider effort, dubbed Operation Snake Oil, that involved police agencies across the Kansas City area on both sides of the state line and in Topeka.
Police officials said Thursday that they seized nearly 1,000 pounds of the substances with an estimated street value of more than $12 million. They also seized more than $300,000, according to Independence police spokesman Tom Gentry.
Those charged Thursday in Wyandotte County District Court were Robina Irfan, 34, and Amina Hemayoun, 30, both of Kansas City, Kan.; Adeel Cheema, 27, of Lee’s Summit; Mohammad Hemayoun, 33, of Lenexa; and Husnain Raja, 28, Sajjad Chaudhry, 45, Fartun Hassan, 37, Sukwhinder Singh, 24, Kamaljit Singh, 22, Jarjail Singh, 51, and Aamir Ghafoor, 42, all of Kansas City.
A judge set bonds for the defendants ranging from $50,000 to $200,000.
They were charged with a variety of counts of distribution and conspiracy to distribute the substances that officials say have been linked to serious health problems and even deaths of some users. Many of the counts involved sales made to undercover police officers during the investigation.
State legislators in Kansas and Missouri have passed laws in recent years making sale and possession of the substances illegal.
Despite that prohibition, officials said, the drugs continued to be sold at gas stations, convenience stores and smoke shops. The drugs were priced at about $10 a gram and were typically sold in colorfully decorated packets of three to four grams containing some type of vegetable material sprayed with the liquified illegal chemicals. The material typically is smoked, although the packages are marketed as things such as incense not for human consumption.
Gentry said Thursday that those arrested in Jackson County were questioned and released pending laboratory testing of the seized materials.