A 58-year-old McFarland man has been sentenced to 18 months in prison due to his role in selling synthetic cannabinoids in a slew of Wisconsin-based gas stations.
On Thursday, Zahid Shakeel, a general manager of Capitol Petroleum, was sentenced by Chief US District Judge James Peterson in a Madison federal court. The gas station employee pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to commit money laundering back in April.
The Second Peg to Fall
Shakeel was working alongside his boss, Farooq Shahzad, the owner, and operator of the 17-location chain of convenience stores throughout the state. The 50-year-old Pakistani-American business owner was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison back in March after ignoring multiple warnings from his gas suppliers, Exxon Mobil and BP, regarding the sale of the illegal cannabinoids in his stores.
In addition to 30 months of jail time, Shahzad was ordered by the court to pay a $1 million fine, sell one of his store locations and give the proceeds to the government, and forced to pay $52,514 in tax restitution.
According to the US Attorney’s Office official news release, the two conspired to sell synthetic cannabinoids throughout the gas stations owned by Shahzad between July 2015 through April 2016. Both Shakeel and Shahzad were allegedly aware of the dangers and illicit nature of synthetic marijuana but knowingly proceeded to distribute them, regardless.
“Law enforcement officials repeatedly asked Shahzad, Shakeel and other Capitol Petroleum employees to stop the sale of these dangerous drugs, and executed search warrants in June 2015, seizing the inventories of two gas stations,” the release said, per the Wisconsin State Journal. “Despite these warnings, the conspirators continued to distribute synthetic cannabinoids from a Mobil gas station at 3505 E. Washington Ave. in Madison.”
Synthetic Marijuana: An Epidemic in its Own Right
Synthetic cannabinoids, which are sold under brand names such as Spice and K2, have been illegal since 2012, due to their wide-range of negative effects such as seizures, rapid heart rate, kidney damage, vomiting, suicidal thoughts, and violent behavior.
It was once even responsible for 33 people from a single Brooklyn neighborhood being hospitalized in one day alone.
“Synthetic cannabinoids can have more powerful effects on the brain, and can lead to death,” said a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
In 2011, the DEA made some of the chemical compounds typically found in synthetic marijuana Schedule I. However, that hasn’t stopped many places—especially where cannabis is still not legal—from illicitly selling the product. Shahzad and Shakeel are living proof of that notion.