PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - Ten people have been arrested for making and distributing synthetic marijuana in eight states, including Florida, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
The investigation, called "Operation Spice King," included state and federal investigators and began in June 2013. Detectives received a tip that Shamir Sultanali Nathan, 32,i was distributing the synthetic drug in the Tampa Bay area and elsewhere in the United States.
Investigators eventually identified another suspect, Pyarali Shamsuddin Heerani, 48. Nathani worked for Heerani, according to a sheriff's statement.
As the investigation continued, eight other suspects were identified.
All were arrested in Pinellas County.
They are accused of manufacturing and packaging the synthetic drug, illegal in Florida, at four Pinellas locations and distributing it to at least four area convenience stores.
The other states named include Nevada, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and New Hampshire.
According to detectives, the suspects shipped approximately 1,000 parcels from 2011 to 2014 via UPS.
67 kilos of finished product were seized during the investigation.
"For people who continue to sell this poison, they need to stop. They're hurting the kids as they selfishly try to get rich quick. The only thing they are going to get themselves is a quick trip to jail," said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
The suspects face a variety of state and federal charges.
Heerani, a Tampa resident, remains at large.
The investigation is ongoing.