Alleged Khat Ring Busted

18 arrested in alleged drug-trafficking scheme

Thursday, May 19, 2011  |  Updated 11:15 AM EDT
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Alleged Khat Ring Busted

Fairfax County Police

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Eighteen people are under arrest, accused in an international drug operation.

Federal officials say 10 of those arrested were from Virginia, two were from Maryland, four from New York and two from Ohio.

All are accused in a conspiracy to transport the illegal drug khat into the U.S. from England, Canada and Holland.

Fresh khat leaves contain the drug cathinone, an addictive stimulant similar to methamphetamine or cocaine, but less intense.

Authorities say Yonis Muhudin Ishak, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, led the conspiracy from his home in Arlington, Va.

They say he used 14 couriers paid $1,000 a trip to smuggle khat into the country in their luggage.

He is accused of suggesting they use their children as couriers to evade detection.

It would then be dispersed to locations throughout the country, including the Washington, D.C. metro area.

All of the suspects are charged with conspiring to distribute cathinone, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted.

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