Store Owner Sentenced in 'Spice' Bust

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By Julie Montanaro
September 3, 2014

A convenience store owner arrested last year and accused of selling synthetic marijuana commonly known as "spice" has just entered a plea in court.

Court records show Jawad Foqahaa - owner of the Time Saver on Old Bainbridge Road in Tallahassee - plead no contest today to charges of possession of spice with intent to sell and maintaining a business where drugs are sold.

Foqahaa was sentenced to 60 days on the sheriff's work camp and five years on probation. Court records show he also had to surrender his license to sell alcohol, tobacco and firearms as part of the deal.

Prosecutors dropped a charge of possession of a short barreled shotgun.

Foqahaa's attorney Matt Foster said, "When this product was originally on the market, it was legal to purchase and sell spice. The legislature later outlawed it and many convenience store owners were not aware of it. Mr. Foqahaa is a hardworking family man who thought he was complying with the law," Foster said, "and he has done everything he can to remedy this situation."

UPDATED by Julie Montanaro
February 4, 2014

A Tallahassee businessman - accused of selling synthetic marijauna in his store - got slapped with a six-digit fine today.

Ours were the only cameras rolling when Ziyad Abulaban entered a plea in court this morning.

Abulaban was arrested after agents raided Bill's Mini Mart on South Magnolia in June 2013 and confiscated spice packets with names like Diablo and Scooby Snax.

Abulaban was sentenced to five years on probation and ordered to pay a 100-thousand dollar fine.

"What we were trying to do is to hit him where it hurt him most, which is financially by taking $100,000 out of him," prosecutor Jack Campbell said. "The evidence in this case shows that this was financially motivated. I both paid for the law enforcement investigative fees and took away the incentive for somebody to do this type of business in the future."

Abulaban was also sentenced to 60 days on the sheriff's work camp and agreed not to work in retail for the next five years.

Neither he nor his attorney wanted to comment as they left the courtroom.

UPDATED by Julie Montanaro
September 17, 2013

A second man has now been arrested in connection with a synthetic marijuana bust in Tallahassee in June.

Jawad Foqahaa is accused of possession of synthetic marijuana with the intent to sell it as well as possession of a short barrelled shotgun.

Foqahaa, police say, is the owner of the Time Saver convenience store on Old Bainbridge Road.

Arrest papers say undercover officers bought fake pot on five different occassions before serving a search warrant on June 11th. The packets sold for 10 and 20 dollars each.

Arrest papers say agents confiscated a box containing 79 packets of
products with names like "Bizarro" "Phantom" and "Loopy."

Arrest papers also say there was a sawed off shotgun within Foqahaa's reach behind the counter.

UPDATED by Julie Montanaro
August 19, 2013

A Tallahassee store owner was handcuffed as soon as he walked off a plane at the Tallahassee airport last night.

Ziyad Abulaban is facing multiple felonies. He's accused of selling synthetic marijuana at his convenience store.

Our cameras were rolling when Tallahassee Police and Leon County deputies raided Bill's Mini Mart in June.

Arrest papers say the store was selling "Scooby Snaxx," "Diablo," "Kush" and other varieties of synthetic marijuana.

Arrest papers say FDLE analyzed those items in its lab and they contained banned substances.

Court records say agents also seized store ledgers. A sample of just three purchase orders, the investigator said, would have amounted to more than 300-thousand dollars in fake pot sales.

UPDATED by Julie Montanaro
June 12, 2013

Tallahassee Police are releasing new photos of drugs seized in raids on two convenience stores.

Tallahassee Police served search warrants Tuesday at Bill's Mini Mart on Magnolia Drive and the Time Saver on Old Bainbridge Road.

They say the stores were selling synthetic marijuana, known on the street as Spice.

New details and photos were released today. Officers say they seized approximately 200 packages of Spice and more than 2000 pieces of drug paraphernalia.

"The question of was the spice out in the open or was it hidden? Previously it was in the open. It was sold openly," TPD Spokesman Dave Northway said. "When the search warrant was served yesterday, it was behind the counter in a hidden manner, meaning you could not walk in off the street and purchase it," Northway said.

"Can you tell me if your undercover people were able to go to the counter, ask for Spice and buy it?"

"That information I cannot disclose," Northway said.

Northway says the packets of Spice are now being sent to FDLE labs for testing.

"We do not have any current arrests at this time," TPD Spokesman David Northway said. "There are still charges pending against the shop owners and any of the employees that were in the store."

Police revealed today that officers also found a gun at the Time Saver on Old Bainbridge Road. They would not comment on why it was seized, saying only that it is part of an ongoing investigation.

Press Release: Tallahassee Police Department

On June 11, 2013 at approximately 9:55am a multi-agency search warrant was served at 1020 South Magnolia Drive, Bills Mini Mart and at the Timesaver located at 1104 Old Bainbridge Road. Both search warrants were intended to locate evidence of the sale of synthetic narcotics, commonly known as “spice.” Beginning in January 2011, the State of Florida began to outlaw various types of synthetic cannabinoids. Between the actions of the Attorney General and the State of Florida Legislature, nearly all synthetic cannabinoids have been made illegal to possess and sell in the state of Florida.

These search warrants were a served by several agencies all working together to eradicate the illegal sales of synthetic cannabinoids. Members of the Tallahassee Police Department, Leon County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Division of Alcohol, Beverage and Tobacco and the Florida Department of Financial Services all utilized their resources to serve these search warrants.

In total the search warrants yielded approximately 200 packages of synthetic cannabinoids and over 2000 pieces of drug paraphernalia. Tallahassee Police Chief Dennis Jones said “Attorney General Bondi has made the sale of these dangerous drugs illegal in Florida and I will work with our law enforcement partners to protect the unsuspecting citizen who is led to believe they are safe for consumption.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi works closely with the participating agencies, saying "I applaud the agencies involved in this Tallahassee operation for sweeping area stores and removing dangerous synthetic drugs from the community. We will remain steadfast in our efforts to protect Floridians, especially our youth, from these horrible drugs."

Leon County Sherriff Larry Campbell said, “We applaud the Attorney General for pressing this issue and providing law enforcement with the tools necessary to combat these illegal synthetic drug operations. To the people in this community who sell these illegal drugs, you can rest assured we are coming. It may not be today or tomorrow, but we are coming for you.”

UPDATED by Julie Montanaro
June 11, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - Two Tallahassee convenience stores are raided by police searching for illegal drugs.

Officers say the stores were selling synthetic marijuana.

The crime tape went up outside Bill's Mini Mart shortly after 10 in the morning. Narcotics agents spent more than two hours inside.

Our cameras were rolling as a parade of officers carried brown bags, cigar boxes and even a cash register out the front door and loaded them into a van waiting outside.

"Now what the search warrants were looking for was some synthetic marijuana or spice as it commonly known," Tallahassee Police Spokesman David Northway said, " and spice has been outlawed in Florida since March of 2012. The investigation is ongoing. We are going to be continuing to keep looking for any more charges to be coming out of this."

TPD, LCSO, FDLE and more were all in on the raid. They served a search warrant simultaneously at the Time Saver on Old Bainbridge Road.

Police say both stores were selling the illegal synthetic drugs.

"It's very sad that a lot of people do this, but I'm glad that it's been nipped in the bud," said Angela Robison as she walked to her car.

"I was very suprised," Nick Camechis said. "I thought it was a robbery."

Nick Camechis works at the shoe shop right next door.

"In the past they have sold what was considerd spice," he said, "and I thought they had quit because they passed a law making it illegal and apparently not, so the police think anyway."

An attorney for Bill's Mini Mart says the store owner routinely checks to be sure none of the items he sells are on the banned list. That list keeps changing, he says, and so do the ingredients.

"Neither management nor ownership of Bill's Mini Mart has any knowledge of any banned substances being sold from those premises," attorney Matt Willard said. "In fact, they took the time to research the law and made sure they pulled any banned substances off at the time they were supposed to."

Williard says at this time no charges have been filed against anyone at the mini mart. He say he is anxious to see what lab tests reveal about the items seized from the store.

By: Matt Galka
June 11, 2013, 12:27 p.m.

According to the owner of the Time Saver Convenience store, the search lasted for approximately 2 hours, and is over now.

The owner was placed in handcuffs and led out of the building while the police carried out the search.

All synthetic material in question was confiscated. Police gave the store owner a warning.

By: Julie Montanaro
June 11, 2013, 12:00 p.m.

Tallahassee Police have had Bill's Mini Mart roped off since 10am this morning to serve a search warrant inside.

According to Tallahassee Police, the search warrant is for synthetic marijuana. A TPD spokesman says the spice was being sold both secretly and out in the open.

Officers started serving the search warrants just before 10am. We watched a procession of officers and deputies carrying brown bags and cigarette boxes out of the store. They also carried out a cash register and computer equipment.

A simultaneous search warrant is being served at 1104 Old Bainbridge Road at the Time Saver Convenience Store.

Tallahassee Police say arrests are pending. They would not comment on whether undercover officers purchased Spice at the stores.

TPD Spokesman Dave Northway says officers have kept local stores updated on the changes in Florida law that banned forms of synthetic marijuana. He says it is now time to take action.

There were multiple agencies on scene. TPD, LCSO, FDLE, ABT and the Department of Financial Services all had officers on scene.

By: Julie Montanaro
June 11, 2013, 10:30 a.m.

Tallahassee, FL - Tallahassee Police have roped off a convenience store near the corner of South Magnolia and Lafayette.

Tallahassee Police confirm they are serving a search warrant at Bill’s Mini Mart.

Officers wearing shirts labeled “Narcotics Unit” are working inside the store.

Right now Tallahassee Police are not releasing any further information on what they’re looking for or if they’ve made any arrests.

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