A man who sold K2 from a smoke shop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and who fled the country in 2014 after being charged with federal drug crimes, was convicted by a jury on September 12, 2022, after a four-day trial in federal court in Cedar Rapids, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Iowa.
Mohammad Al Sharairei, age 47, previously from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was convicted of one count of maintaining a premises for the distribution of controlled substance analogues and one count of conspiring to distribute controlled substance analogues. The verdict was returned Sept. 12 afternoon following about five hours of jury deliberations.
The evidence at trial showed that in 2012 and 2013, Al Sharairei and his wife owned and operated a smoke shop on First Avenue in Cedar Rapids called Puff N Stuff II.
During June 2013, federal agents raided Puff N Stuff II and seized thousands of packets of K2 which were labeled as “novelty items,” “potpourri,” and “incense” and contained a warning that the products were “not for human consumption.” Some names of the “potpourri” products were Bizarro, Grave Digger, Lights Out, and Mega Kush.
The substances in the packages were determined to contain synthetic cannabinoids called PB‑22 and 5F‑PB‑22. Trial evidence showed that these synthetic cannabinoid substances are far more potent than marijuana and have been associated with severe psychological and physical effects, including death. Trial evidence showed that, despite labeling the products as “not for human consumption” and having a store policy that customers could not talk about smoking the products, Al Sharairei himself smoked the “incense.”
Seized store records from Puff N Stuff II showed that between January 2012 and June 26, 2013, the store had sold over $1.3 million in synthetic cannabinoid products. Trial evidence also showed that after Al Sharairei was charged and appeared in federal court, he fled the country in 2014 prior to a scheduled hearing. He remained a fugitive until he was extradited back to the United States from Brazil.
Sentencing before United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand will be set after a presentence report is prepared. Al Sharairei remains in custody of the United States Marshal pending sentencing. Al Sharairei faces a possible maximum sentence of 40 years’ imprisonment, a $1,500,000 fine, and up to a lifetime of supervised release following any imprisonment. He also faces up to $425,000 in forfeiture of proceeds of his drug operation.
The case was investigated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program of the United States Department of Justice through a cooperative effort of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations. The DEA Task Force consists of the DEA; the Linn County Sheriff's Office; the Cedar Rapids Police Department; the Marion Police Department; and the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs worked with law enforcement partners in Brazil to secure the arrest and extradition of Mohammad Al Sharairei to the United States. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dan Chatham and Special Assistant United States Attorney Adam Vander Stoep.