Two men have been indicted in the District's largest-ever synthetic drug bust, in which police seized more than 250 pounds of a substance marketed as Bizarro from a storage space in Northwest D.C.
Siraj Issa, 33, and Yenework Tefera Abera, 41, were indicted late Thursday with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, a federal offense.
The more than 19,247 packets of berry-flavored synthetic marijuana were worth an estimated $2.3 million, prosecutors say.
On Aug. 27, Maryland State Police and the Metropolitan Area Drug Task Force intercepted the drugs after they were shipped from the West Coast. A police dog detected the drugs at a shipping company in Howard County, Maryland, prosecutors say.
Their final destination was intended to be Northwest D.C., according to charging documents.
Inside the shipment was the thousands of packets of Bizarro, which contained the Schedule I controlled substance known as XLR-11, according to the documents. The packets were in sizes of 3.5 and 10 grams, authorities said.
Police made a controlled delivery of the shipment of more than 250 pounds to a storage facility in Northwest D.C. Tuesday. Issa signed the delivery receipt, and he and Abera loaded the shipment's 14 boxes onto handcarts and placed them in a storage unit, the charging documents say.
Abera told police he went to the storage facility several times in recent months to get black trash bags from Issa to distribute at various street corners in the city, according to the documents. He received up to $200 for a single delivery, he said.
He told police he thought the bags carried hair products or other dollar-store items.
Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said at a community meeting Wednesday night that detectives raced to keep the berry-flavored drugs off the street.
"I guarantee you that that shipment that we got today, that was destined for the gas stations and the little variety stores all through this community and all across the city," she said.
D.C. police will continue to pursue sellers of synthetic drugs, Lanier said.
"We are committed to going after these synthetics, where ever they're coming from, and getting at that source," she said.
The District has seen a sharp increase in use of synthetic drugs in recent months. That spike is partially responsible for violence in the city this summer, officials have said.
Previously, D.C.'s largest seizure of synthetic drugs was about 2,000 packets in 2014.
Issa, of northwest D.C., and Abera, of Alexandria, Virginia, face a maximum 20 years in prison and fines.