Thirteen people—many of them from Northern Virginia—were convicted in federal court on Thursday for trafficking more than 10 million grams of khat into the United States.
Human couriers were paid about $1,000 per trip to travel to England and return with khat smuggled in their passenger luggage, prosecutors for the Eastern District of Virginia said. They used the post office and delivery companies to distribute it in states throughout the east, including in the D.C. metro area.
Members of the conspiracy would use rented vehicles to provide couriers with transportation to and from the airport, prosecutors said. Then, they'd pick out locations throughout the United States for couriers to pick up or ship khat to people elsewhere in the U.S. Their counterparts in the United Kingdom would send them Express Mail packages that contained khat, while labeling them “baby clothes" or picture frames.
Prosecutors said many of the proceeds from the sales were sent to England, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.
Fresh khat leaves contain the drug cathinone, which can be addictive. The effects are similar to, but less intense than methamphetamine or cocaine, prosecutors said. Those who chew it may experience a sense of euphoria and excitement. Up to 10 million people worldwide chew khat, and it is common in areas such as East Africa and southern Arabia. However, it has also grown popular in the United States among teens and partygoers.
The following people were convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cathinone, a Schedule I controlled substance found in khat. They all face up to 20 years in prison.
- Suado Mohamed Ali, 45, of Burke*
- Hibo Musse Samantar, 34, of Annandale
- Ahmed Ali Hassan, 31, of Alexandria, Va
- Osman Yusuf, 56, of Clifton*
- Abdirahman Abshir Jibril, 45, of Fairfax*
- Harun Salhan, 47, of Wheaton, Md.
- Ismail Mohamud Abdi, 50, of Alexandria*
- Abdi Muhumed, 43, of Parkville, Md.*
- Lutf Mohamed Albukhaiti, 36, of Brooklyn, N.Y.*
- Nagi Mansor Sea Alashmali, 50, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Khaled Ahmed Isa, 36, of Brooklyn, N.Y.*
- Abdi Omar Abdi, 56, of Columbus, Ohio*
- Abokor Gurreh, 55, of Columbus, Ohio*
* =also convicted of conspiracy to launder the proceeds of khat sales to suppliers in the United Kingdom and Africa.