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.
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.”
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.
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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