|Four men arrested in local drug investigation|
|Written by Jenny Jackowski, Daily Vidette Reporter|
|Monday, 26 November 2012 18:41|
On Wednesday, Nov. 14, four men were arrested for the sales of illegal drugs.
A joint operation, “Operation Storefront,” between the Bloomington Police Department and the Champaign Police Department brought in Ghassan Qahwaji, Ghiath Qahwaji, Hicham Rharabi and Hani Al-Maghayred for the distribution of a drug sold under the name of “Blue Heaven.” The suspects are charged with multiple counts of manufactured delivery and money laundering.
“We were notified by the state that these products would be deemed illegal because of their chemical composition. Then we went out to the different businesses in town here in Bloomington where we knew the product was being sold.
“We gave the store owners the information and told them that this was an opportunity for them to get rid of it so we wouldn’t have to arrest them the first time,” Dave White, Bloomington Police Department public affairs officer, said.
The men handed over the controlled substance analogs and signed a document stating they understood the illegal nature of the product and would henceforth cease selling it. This way, if the police ever found them with it again, the men could not claim ignorance of the law.
“The Illinois law said [the drug] had to be made a certain way. They changed the way they made it. They added another chemical or they took one away, so now the composition is not what Illinois State Law said it was. Now they were producing this stuff so that it would be different so they could say, ‘Okay, it’s illegal now,’” White said.
The legislature has since changed to encompass variations on chemical drugs, also called controlled substance analog. Global Tobacco’s two storefronts in Bloomington and one in Champaign continued to sell the illicit substance. Police went undercover and bought controlled amounts of the drug, obtained an arrest and a search warrant and served them.
Between money found in the homes of the suspects and money found in bank accounts, the men brought in 2.5 million dollars for selling the drug.
“The company that makes [Blue Heaven], I can buy it from them. They can tell me it’s illegal and it’s not for human consumption. That’s why they get the names like bath salts,” White said.
Distributors often try to pass illegal substances by claiming them as something other than a drug. They might say the drug is a bath salt or potpourri meant to be used in a way in which the buyer is not actually consuming it. This method is a red flag for police.
All four men are scheduled for a trial at 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 30. They are all opting for private representation, though only Ghassan Qahwaji has made a selection.
“Stephanie Wong is for Ghassan. So that’s a private attorney … The other one they’re set to hire, but we haven’t received anything yet,” Tammy Hoeniges, Circuit Court deputy, said.
The trial will take place at the McLean County Courthouse, located at 115 E. Washington St. in Bloomington. Trials are generally open to the public.