Pubdate: Thu, 08 May 2014
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Associated Press
Page: A10


WASHINGTON (AP) - The Drug Enforcement Administration on Wednesday 
broadened its national crackdown on synthetic drug manufacturers, 
wholesalers and retailers as federal agents served hundreds of search 
and arrest warrants in at least 25 states.

Agents served warrants at homes, warehouses and smoke shops beginning 
early morning, DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said. The largest single 
operation was a statewide effort in Alabama. Agents also were active 
in 28 other states.

The DEA said agents made more than 150 arrests and served about 200 
warrants. Federal, state and local authorities seized hundreds of 
thousands of individual packets of synthetic drugs and hundreds of 
kilograms of synthetic products used to make the drugs.

Authorities also seized more than $20 million in cash and assets, the DEA said.

The DEA has been cracking down on synthetic drugs, including 
so-called bath salts, spice and Molly, since the drugs first gained 
widespread popularity years ago.

In late 2010, the agency responsible for enforcing federal drug laws 
moved to ban five chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana blends, 
including K2, Spice and Blaze.

Ferdinand Large, staff coordinator for DEA's Special Operations 
Division, said the agency is now broadly focused on Chinese chemical 
manufacturers and the distributors, wholesalers and retailers in the 
United States.

Investigators have tracked hundreds of millions of dollars in drug 
proceeds being sent to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, Large said.

U.S. authorities long have worried about criminal and terrorist 
groups in the Middle East using drug trafficking to fund illicit activities.

Payne said Wednesday's crackdown was focused strictly on U.S. targets 
and involved 66 DEA cases, seven investigations led by Immigration 
and Customs Enforcement special agents and several others led by 
Customs and Border Protection that focused on express consignment shipments.

Besides Alabama, Wednesday's raids took place in Alaska, California, 
Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, 
Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, 
Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South 
Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
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