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Iowa head shop owner guilty of distributing synthetic drugs

gavel-justiceCEDAR RAPIDS – The former owner of Zombies, a head shop in Iowa City, pled guilty today in federal court in Cedar Rapids for selling illegal substances.

Hadi Sharairi, age 45, from Coralville, Iowa, was convicted of one count of conspiring to distribute drugs called AB-FUBINACA and THJ-2201 between February and May 2014. AB-FUBINACA was a Schedule I controlled substance and THJ-2201 was a controlled substance analogue during that time period. Under federal law, drugs that are similar to substances listed in the controlled substance schedules are considered “controlled substance analogues,” and it is unlawful to distribute them just as it is illegal to distribute substances on the controlled substance schedules, such as cocaine, heroin, or marijuana.

Testimony at a hearing on June 21, 2016, showed Sharairi was the former owner of Zombies, a head shop located in Iowa City. An officer testified that Sharairi was warned by the Iowa City Police Department in June 2013 not to sell synthetic cannabinoid products (commonly known as “K2,” “Spice,” or “incense”). In May 2014, however, law enforcement searched Zombies and a storage unit associated with the business and found packages labeled “Bizarro,” which contained THJ-2201, and other packages labeled “Super Nova,” which contained AB-FUBINACA.

The investigation of Sharairi and raids of his business, home, and other related locations in May 2014 were a part of a coordinated DEA takedown called Project Synergy Phase II. The second phase of Project Synergy, which began January 2014, culminated on May 7, 2014, in 29 states, and involved more than 45 DEA offices serving nearly 200 search warrants. On that date, authorities seized hundreds of thousands of individually packaged, ready-to-sell synthetic drugs as well as hundreds of kilograms of raw synthetic products to make thousands more. Additionally, more than $20 million in cash and assets were seized.

Sentencing before United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand will be set after a presentence report is prepared. Sharairi was taken into custody by the United States Marshal after the guilty plea and will remain in custody pending sentencing. Sharairi faces a possible maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment, a $1,000,000 fine, $100 in special assessments, and up to a lifetime of supervised release following any imprisonment.

The case was investigated by the Iowa City Police Department and as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program of the United States Department of Justice through a cooperative effort of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force consisting of the DEA, the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, the Cedar Rapids Police Department, the Marion Police Department, the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, and the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services; and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dan Chatham.

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