SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - One day after deputies made multiple arrests after raiding several stores accused of selling illegal synthetic marijuana in Seminole County, some store owners were arrested and charged as well.
Deputies said Thursday that five more suspects were arrested Wednesday as part of their investigation.
The suspects have been identified as Faramarz Arfaee, owner of the Citgo in Altamonte
Springs; Iradj Mohamadzadeh, a clerk at the Citgo; Dib Diab, owner of Chuluota Grocery; Lydia Colon-Lopez, owner of Tobacco and Beer Outlet in Winter Springs and Angel Cabrera, a clerk at Tobacco and Beer Outlet.
In recent months, law enforcement officers said they visited convenience, liquor and tobacco stores throughout the county to ensure harmful synthetic drugs are not made available for sale.
During the visits, undercover agents said they purchased samples of suspected synthetic drugs. The drugs were then analyzed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's crime lab to identify the presence of those chemicals prohibited by emergency order or by state law.
Overall, investigators said they confiscated nearly 800 packages of synthetic and imitation drugs in their raids. Some of the illegal substances were marketed under several names, including bath salts, K2 and Spice.
Authorities said some of the confiscated packages tested positive for synthetic drugs, while others did not.
On Tuesday, agents identified four suspects as Derick Pagan-Cordova, Maged Youssef, Maurice McKnight and Nereida Pagan.
Channel 9's Tim Barber has been working the story for months, since a woman called in the fall alerting WFTV to a store in Casselberry selling the illegal synthetic drugs.
Barber contacted authorities and found the store was one of the four that was busted by the FDLE, Casselberry police and the Seminole County Sheriff's Office.
Over the last few months, Channel 9 learned undercover agents were purchasing samples of suspected synthetic drugs and then having them analyzed by the FDLE.
Pagan-Cordova was arrested at a Citgo on Altamonte Drive in Altamonte Springs.
Undercover agents said they purchased the synthetic marijuana Mr. Nice Guy Shamrocks from Pagan-Cordova. Agents said the business also had K2 and Spice but did not put them in view of the public.
Pagan-Cordova has been charged with possession of synthetic narcotics with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver and possession of drug equipment.
Youssef was arrested at Chuluota Grocery on East Seventh Street in Oviedo.
Undercover agents said they purchased the synthetic marijuana known as Mr. Nice Guy from Youssef, who has since been charged with possession and
the sale of synthetic drugs.
McKnight was taken into custody at Casselberry Liquor on State Road 436.
Agents said they were able to purchase the synthetic drug Outer Edge from McKnight. He was charged with the sale of synthetic narcotics, possession with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver, possession of bath salts and possession of a weapon or ammo by a convicted felon.
Pagan was arrested in Casselberry and charged with the sale of imitation drugs and possession of drug equipment.
Authorities said they successfully purchased imitation drugs and paraphernalia from Pagan at Tobacco and Beer Outlet on State Road 434.
Authorities said the synthetic drugs purchased at Tobacco and Beer Outlet did not test positive for the banned chemicals so Lopez and Pagan were only charged with selling imitation drugs.
Lopez allegedly told authorities she wanted to sell a natural alternative to the banned substances, but deputies said she was retailing it for human consumption.
WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said prosecutors may have a hard time getting those charges to stick because the term "imitation drug" is vague.
"This is always going to be a cat and mouse game," said Sheaffer. "Criminal statutes are narrow, and these people can keep changing what's in the drug."
But deputies still said the bottom line is that if something is represented as an illegal drug, along with drug equipment, it is a felony.
The entire undercover operation took in 800 packages of synthetic drugs and more than 500 items of drug paraphernalia, authorities said.