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17 Indicted In International Drug Ring Case In New York

In this file picture taken on June 20, 2014 A man holds bundled of the stimulant plant khat (qat), in Harlesden, north west London. (Credit: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

In this file picture taken on June 20, 2014 A man holds bundled of the stimulant plant khat (qat), in Harlesden, north west London. (Credit: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Seventeen people have been indicted in connection with an international drug ring that authorities said flooded parts of New York, Massachusetts and Ohio with several tons of a narcotic obtained from Yemen, Kenya and Ethiopia.

According to officials, the substance known as khat was shipped to the United States through the United Kingdom, China, Holland and Belgium.

Authorities say 17 members of an international drug ring flooded parts of New York, Massachusetts and Ohio with several tons of a narcotic obtained from Yemen, Kenya and Ethiopia. (credit: Carol D'Auria/1010 WINS)

Authorities say 17 members of an international drug ring flooded parts of New York, Massachusetts and Ohio with several tons of a narcotic obtained from Yemen, Kenya and Ethiopia. (credit: Carol D’Auria/1010 WINS)

On display Friday were large bundles of the drug, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported. Its green leaves were packed in plastic bags the size of king-sized pillows.

Officials said the khat was shipped in boxes labeled “tea.”

17 Indicted In International Drug Ring Case In New York

450935386 17 Indicted In International Drug Ring Case In New York
WCBS 880's Irene Cornell reports

Khat is popular in parts of the Middle East and Africa, but it’s classified as a dangerous narcotic in the United States. Users chew the leaf, producing a mild high.

A 215-count indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn’s state Supreme Court.

The case was announced Friday by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.

17 Indicted In New York International Drug Ring Case

450935386 17 Indicted In International Drug Ring Case In New York
1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria reports

Schneiderman told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria the drug was being stored at the Islamic Society of Flatbush on Nostrand Avenue, although the mosque itself was not involved.

“The juice is found to be addictive. There’s evidence linking the use of the drug to liver damage, cardiac problems, insomnia, and it also exacerbates mental health problems,” Schneiderman said.

Authorities said the ring laundered proceeds through operations in Minnesota and wired the money to various locations abroad, including Dubai and England.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)