Jacksonville, FL (STL.News) U.S. District Judge Brian J. Davis has sentenced Arafat Aljubeh (55, Tampa) to 12 years and 7 months in federal prison for conspiring to launder the proceeds of a conspiracy to distribute AB-FUBINACA, a type of synthetic marijuana. The court also ordered Aljubeh to forfeit his interest in five parcels of real property in the Tampa Bay area, which are traceable to proceeds of the offense.
Aljubeh had pleaded guilty on June 7, 2019.
According to the plea agreement, in April 2017, in Baker County, a Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) trooper conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by Thair Zatar. Zatar was issued a warning and gave the trooper consent to search his vehicle. When the trooper looked in the back of Zatar’s vehicle, he discovered nine large black garbage bags, weighing approximately 415 pounds, which were stuffed with 27,000 individual packets labeled as “potpourri.” The packets were branded with names including “Outer Space” and “Geeked Up.” The trooper suspected the packets contained synthetic marijuana, and the Drug Enforcement Administration later confirmed that fact. Zatar was arrested and informed the DEA that his supplier was Aljubeh.
Zatar pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to distribute AB-FUBINACA and was sentenced in 2018 to four years and three months in federal prison. Zatar’s sentence was later reduced to 33 months in prison based on his cooperation in the investigation of Aljubeh.
As part of his cooperation, Zatar admitted to DEA that he had served as a drug mule at the direction of Aljubeh on previous occasions and provided documents and evidence showing that Aljubeh directed Zatar to deposit the proceeds of the AB-FUBINACA sales into accounts controlled by Aljubeh and Aljubeh’s conspirators. A separate investigation of those accounts by Homeland Security Investigations revealed that the involved accounts were receiving deposits of thousands of dollars in cash from around the United States that were the proceeds of the sale of AB-FUBINACA. Those accounts were then used to transfer the proceeds back and forth between the accounts in a complex series of transactions designed to obfuscate the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the drug money. Ultimately, tracing of the funds showed that they were used to purchase five pieces of real property in the Tampa Bay area.
“This criminal has repeatedly shown disregard for our nation’s laws,” said HSI Tampa Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael Cochran. “As a result of the effective teamwork with HSI, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Highway Patrol and the DEA, this repeat offender will face the consequences for his crimes.”
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Pasco Sheriff’s Office. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Laura Cofer Taylor. The criminal forfeiture was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Bonnie Glober.