State-wide operation targets synthetic drugs

Authorities raided the One Stop Mini Market located on the 300 block of Moulton Street in Decatur, Wednesday morning.
Authorities raided the One Stop Mini Market located on the 300 block of Moulton Street in Decatur, Wednesday morning.

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Drug agents raided multiple businesses across Alabama, targeting synthetic drugs on Wednesday.

The Drug Enforcement Agency partnered with state and local law enforcement Wednesday morning as a part of "Operation Red Tide."

The operation, involving more than 35 state, local and federal agencies, is targeting manufacturing and distribution of synthetic drugs from China.

"Any time we see a small smoke shop in Alabama sending tens of millions of dollars to Yemen, it gives us a great deal of concern. That's a trend that we're really looking into right now. That terror connection with drug trafficking is clear," said Rusty Payne, the DEA spokesman.

Nationwide, this is called "Project Synergy." Alabama's Operation Red Tide is the largest single state effort.

The Alabama counties involved in Project Synergy include Madison, Morgan, Etowah, DeKalb, Jefferson, Shelby, Dallas, Houston, Montgomery and Lee.

Agents raided several stores in North Alabama, including the One Stop Mini Market located in the 300 block of Moulton Street in Decatur on Wednesday morning. At that shop, they took some items out of the building, including what appeared to be an ATM.

Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin said authorities were also searching for currency and documentation that could link suspects to selling spice. Federal agents got information on where to look based on local undercover operations.

Franklin said it's bad enough spice is being sold to kids, but worse that some of the money involved could be funneled to terrorists.

"It's chemical poison that they're spraying on some type of leafy substance that alters your brain," she said. "But they're taking their money and potentially selling it to terrorist groups that are targeting our country in a larger way. It is even more insulting, for Morgan County and for the State of Alabama, to have this going on in our own backyard."

The sheriff also said she believes the DEA will also look into money laundering charges and investigating if the substances were trafficked across state lines.

In Madison County, four people were booked into the Metro Jail on Wednesday morning as part of the raid.

Jermaine Miranda, Mohamed Moflahi, Muath Mohamed, and Fikri Nagi were all charged with drug trafficking. Jail records show authorities arrested all four men at three different apartment complexes in Madison. Management at one of the complexes, Colonial Grand, confirmed one of the men lived there and another constantly stopped by.

Authorities confirmed at least one of the men had 30 packs of spice on him at the time of his arrest. Two of the men have New York home addresses.

Apartment application records showed Mohamed Moflahi owned a convenience store off the 700 block of Triana Boulevard in Huntsville. A visit to that store found locked doors. It appeared the store hadn't been open in months.

Seven people were arrested in DeKalb County. Antonio Lockett, Brad McElrath, Troy Johnson, Zachery Croft, Noel Croft and April Wiggins face distribution charges. Wiggins and Octaves Nash also face possession charges.

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office said 100 controlled pills were seized at Wiggins and Nash's residence, as well as spice, meth, scales and one firearm.

Statewide, 38 people were arrested. Agents seized $500,000 in cash and in bank accounts, 19 guns and 200 pounds of product in Wednesday's raids.

DEA officials said there were four spice recipes in 2008 and now there are more than 200.

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Copyright 2014 WAFF. All rights reserved. WBRC contributed to this report.