Valero (copy)

The co-owner of this Valero in Opal recently pleaded guilty to selling synthetic marijuana out of the store since 2012.

The co-owner of a Fauquier County gas station recently admitted in federal court to selling synthetic marijuana, also known as spice.

Nasser A. Latif, 70, of Gainesville pleaded guilty Jan. 10 in the Eastern District of Virginia court in Alexandria to conspiracy to distribute, and possession with intent to distribute, Schedule I controlled substances and controlled substance analogues, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger.

Latif and his business partner sold spice from the Valero near Opal since 2012, according to court documents. Latif faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when sentenced March 27.

“Spice is a toxic mix of dangerous chemicals that can be deadly,” Terwilliger said in a statement. “These chemicals can mimic the effects of PCP, a powerful and dangerous hallucinogenic. Many people wrongly assume spice is innocuous, and it is often our young people who fall victim to these illegal drugs, obtaining them at gas stations and convenience stores without any idea how dangerous they can be.

Latif and his partner primarily sold 5-gram packets of spice, packaged in silver pouches bearing various logos, brand names, or images like, “Scooby Doo,” “Diablo,” “Bizarro,” and “24 Monkey.” The spice cost at least $53 per packet, the news release said.“We appreciate the tremendous working relationships with our law enforcement partners that resulted in holding these perpetrators accountable,” Fauquier County Sheriff Robert P. Mosier said in a statement. “This investigation has undoubtedly saved lives by getting these synthetic or ‘designer drugs’ off the street, which were responsible for medical occurrences, some even requiring hospitalizations. We will always work with vigilance for the continued protection of our community from those that would exploit the weaknesses associated with addictions.”

Raymond Villanueva, special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations Washington D.C. field office said the local store for years sold the illicit products, profiting from the toxic and deadly goods.

“HSI is committed to taking individuals peddling dangerous substances off our streets,” he said.

More than two years ago in December 2017, law enforcement seized more than 7 kilograms of spice, as well as nearly $300,000 in cash from Latif’s residence and about $118,000 from the gas station’s business account, according to the news release.

—Culpeper Star–Exponent Spice is a synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. It is a mixture of plant material sprayed with psychoactive chemicals, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Spice often looks like potpourri and typically is labeled “not for human consumption.” The ingredients and strength of products containing synthetic cannabinoids are almost impossible for the user to know, according to the DEA.

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