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Authorities have arrested a man accused of selling a dangerous strain of synthetic pot to vape shop owners in Wilson and five other eastern North Carolina counties.
Wilson police assisted in executing a federal search warrant at 4511 Lake Hills Drive where 50-year-old Akram Abdel-Aziz was arrested Friday, according to police and the U.S. attorney’s office.
Abdel-Aziz is charged with possession with intent to distribute a quantity of 5F-ADB, a synthetic cannabinoid listed as a Schedule I controlled substance.
Branded as Black Magic and also sold by other names, the substance was sold as a liquid vaporizer product at vape shops in Wilson, Onslow, Craven, Cumberland, New Hanover and Pamlico counties, federal authorities said.
Law enforcement agencies learned of the product after more than 40 people required medical attention after ingesting it, officials said. Symptoms included seizures, loss of consciousness, hallucinations, paranoia and cardiac arrest.
Wilson Police Capt. Jeff Boykin said officers seized an undetermined amount of money from Abdel-Aziz’s Wilson home Friday as well as ledgers and an unknown liquid substance believed to be synthetic marijuana.
“This investigation goes back several months,” Boykin said. “The great thing is we were able to to work with the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to work this case. It allowed us to utilize federal resources for investigative purposes.”
Synthetic cannabinoids can cause serious adverse reactions including sudden death, and scientists say the substances are more harmful than marijuana.
“Compared to cannabis, severe and fatal poisoning appears to be more common with SCRAs,” the World Health Organization’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence wrote in a November 2017 report presented in Geneva, Switzerland. SCRAs are synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists.
In addition to federal agents from the DEA, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Army and Marine Corps investigative agencies, Wilson police and Wilson County sheriff’s deputies contributed to the multijurisdictional probe along with the State Bureau of Investigation, N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement, Jacksonville police and sheriff’s deputies in Onslow, Cumberland, Craven and Wayne counties.