A Mississippi man pleaded guilty on October 17 to importing the synthetic cannabinoid AB-PINACA and possessing firearms in furtherance of a felony drug trafficking crime, according an announcement from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern Mississippi region. The man had been ordering cannabinoids from a supplier on the internet, preparing them for distribution, and then selling them out of a sporting goods store in Meridian, Mississippi.
Bilal Hamid Love, 35, was arrested in March 2015 as the result of an investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics (MBN); the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the United States Marshal Service; the East Mississippi Drug Task Force; the Mississippi State Crime Laboratory; and two county sheriffs departments. In 2015, federal and state law enforcement agencies in both Newton County and Lauderdale County investigated and indicted Love on a series of drug and firearms charges. The Mississippi Attorney General Office also launched an investigation into alleged crimes that never made their way into a federal indictment.
“We will remain vigilant in order to capture this poison being sent through our mail system before it hits our streets and harms our citizens. I commend our Postal agents, Homeland Security agents and prosecutor for being proactive and catching this criminal before he hurt our community even more,” United States Attorney Mike Hurst said during a press conference.
The federal investigation began after both Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Postal Inspection Service intercepted two packages of AB-PINACA addressed to Love’s Mississippi home. The packages contained several pounds of the synthetic cannabinoid. At the time, many drug distributors sold synthetic cannabinoids legally as research chemicals “not for human consumption.” Since 2015, many research chemical vendors learned that the “not for human consumption” labels failed to protect them from raids by federal law enforcement agencies who had evidence that the vendors knew their customers had been purchasing the cannabinoids for the sole purpose of consumption. The DEA started cracking down on these synthetic cannabinoids and their vendors, forcing labs to produce new psychoactive substances that barely skirted legislation. Many of the new compounds are far stronger than AB-PINACA. At the time, though, AB-PINACA was a threat to the health and lives of many drug users in Mississippi. At one hospital near Love, 11 teenagers had been treated for life-threatening overdoses in less than two weeks.
So USPIS and HSI in Mississippi quickly launched an investigation into Love’s activities. After a brief investigation, federal and state agencies raided the man’s home and business. Law enforcement in both Newton County and Lauderdale County raided and indicted Love. His home was in one county and his business, Mike’s Sports, was in another. Raids at both locations yielded massive amounts of drugs, equipment and materials for producing spice, hydroponic equipment for growing marijuana, counterfeit clothing, and cash. The clothes were part of the Mississippi Attorney General Office investigation into Love’s alleged counterfeit clothing distribution that amounted to nothing.
Newton County charged Love with trafficking synthetic cannabinoids; manufacturing of marijuana; possession of stolen firearms; and the possession of a firearm by a felon. Lauderdale County charged the man with trafficking synthetic cannabinoids; trafficking methamphetamine; possession of amphetamine; and possession of a firearm by a felon. The raids yielded almost 60 pounds of synthetic cannabinoids; close to 100 pounds of damania, a plant used to absorb synthetic cannabinoids to produce a smokable herbal blend; crack cocaine; marijuana; ecstasy; equipment for growing marijuana; equipment for creating the smokable blends; five legally owned firearms; two stolen firearms; $6,500 in cash. Law enforcement also seized two vehicles and counterfeit clothing.
“The boldness of this criminal effort to import illegal drugs into the U.S. through the mail seriously underestimated the dedication of HSI and its federal partners to identify and seek prosecution of those engaged in this brazen criminal activity,” Jere T. Miles, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New Orleans, said in a joint conference with U.S. Attorney Hurst.
Love faces a statutory maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a fine of up to one million dollars. The actual sentence will likely be far less severe, but the agencies involved in the investigation spared no words when referring to Love’s crimes. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.