2nd major drug bust in as many days Xanax, synthetic pot among items seized from Pecan Ridge Mart

Published 12:35 am Saturday, August 27, 2011

More than 7 pounds of synthetic marijuana and a cache of Xanax and guns were seized from a convenience store at Culkin and Freetown roads in the second major drug bust in Warren County in as many days.

Two men were arrested in the raid executed by the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and a K-9 unit from the Vicksburg Police Department.

Arrested at the Pecan Ridge Mart, 20 Freetown Road, were employees Ameen Gamil, 27, and Ahmed Saleh, 26, both of 1216 Heather Place, said the sheriff. They were in the Warren County Jail pending an initial hearing, which likely will be Monday, Pace said.

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“This is a significant seizure of synthetic cannabis,” said Pace, who added the seizure was one of the largest ever in the state. The street value of the drugs is about $46,420, he said.

Agents with the MBN could not be reached Friday night.

“Spice,” with effects similar to marijuana, was made illegal in Mississippi during a special session of the Legislature one year ago today. Xanax is a Schedule IV drug prescribed for anxiety attacks and panic disorders.

The bust is the culmination of a lengthy investigation, and followed by one day the seizing of 3.3 pounds of “ice,” or nearly-pure crystal methamphetamine after a traffic stop on Interstate 20. Two men remain in the Warren County Jail following that arrest.

“It has been a significant nuisance,” Pace said of the reported drug activity at the Pecan Ridge Mart, which is across the street from Pecan Ridge Apartments and the Culkin Volunteer Fire Department. “We have been receiving complaints about this store for months. In the past we have made some arrests there on misdemeanor charges of selling alcohol to minors, but we’ve also been investigating complaints about the sale of synthetic cannabis.”

The investigation has included surveillance as well as undercover buyers. MBN agents and Warren County deputies served a search warrant around 9 a.m. Friday.

Saleh was on duty, and Gamil drove up to the store while agents and deputies were conducting the search, Pace said.

Each is being charged with at least one count of sale of synthetic cannabis, possession of synthetic cannabis with intent to distribute and possession of Xanax with intent to distribute, the sheriff said.

Seized in the raid were:

• 260 1-gram packets of spice with a street value of about $2,600.

• 61 10-gram packets valued at about $3,660.

• 72 1-gram packets of a slightly different form of spice, valued at about $2,800.

• 904 2.5-gram packets with a value of about $36,160.

• 30 individually packaged bags of Xanax, four to a bag, valued at about $1,200.

• Three laptop computers.

• A Glock 9mm handgun with two magazines, one elongated to hold about 30 rounds.

• Hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

• Hundreds of pipes used to smoke marijuana or spice.

• Digital scales.

• More than $5,300 stashed in a black garbage bag behind the counter next to the box containing packets of spice.

• Counterfeit designer purses available for sale.

• Counterfeit NFL-branded T-shirts available for sale.

The Mississippi Attorney General’s consumer fraud division has been notified about counterfeit purses and shirts, Pace said.

Saleh and Gamil are originally from Yemen and are believed to be in the country legally, but details about their backgrounds, including how long they have worked at Pecan Ridge Mart, is part of the ongoing investigation, Pace said.

What charges, if any, might be filed against the owner of the store also are part of the investigation, Pace said. The store was shut down for most of the day but the owner was onsite and opened it for business late Friday afternoon.

“It has been a long investigation but we are extremely pleased with the results,” Pace added.

In Thursday’s bust, 3.34 pounds of meth with a street value estimated at between $225,000 and $400,000 was found in the tailgate of a 1990 Nissan pickup being towed by a 2003 Chevrolet Blazer, Pace said.

Arrested were the driver, Gerardo Garcia Mendoza, 24, and Ricardo Garcia Mendoza, 23, identified by investigators as brothers. Both are in the country illegally from Mexico, the sheriff said.

Two women, a toddler and an infant traveling with the men were released Thursday night after being questioned by deputies and agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.