Several arrested for alleged sale of illegal vapes after raid of convenience stores

Published 7:00 am Thursday, November 18, 2021

Last Friday night, on Nov. 12 investigators with the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department and Picayune Police Department conducted an operation at several convenience stores and tobacco stores in the county to remove dangerous vape products that were being sold illegally.

During the night of Nov. 12, warrants were served at the following businesses; two Smoker’s Palace locations in Poplarville; the Valero gas station in Picayune on Memorial Boulevard, Smoke EZ in Picayune on Highway 43 North, True Value Tobacco in Picayune on Highway 43 North and the Jackson Landing Food Mart on Beech Street in Picayune. Additionally, the residences of Falah Fadel, located at 1315 Alpine Rd., and the home of Savannah Haas, located at 212 Upstart St. in Poplarville, were searched and evidence was recovered.

Sheriff David Allison said the warrants were served as part of a buy operation that began back in January of this year when both departments were alerted that alleged illegal substances were being sold at those locations.

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Those complaints alleged that customers could purchase spice and other synthetic cannabinoids in liquid form from those stores if they asked for the right products, which were being stored behind the counter out of sight. At one point investigators learned that people had been overdosing on the substances sold at those businesses.

In an effort to protect the public, the operation was ramped up after investigators learned that two high school aged residents of the county overdosed on some of those products and had to be taken to the hospital for treatment. Undercover purchases were then made at the stores where the substances were suspected to have been acquired, and that information was used to obtain search warrants for the businesses and homes listed above.

Some of the vape cartridges seized in the operation were sent to the state crime lab to determine what type of substances were inside. Those results showed the cartridges contained synthetic cannabinoids identified as ADB-BUTINACA and MDMB-4en-PINACA.

According to a release from the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department, synthetic cannabinoids can cause side effects ranging from rapid heart rates, respiratory problems, kidney failure, seizures and hallucinations. In severe cases overdoses of those products can result in death, the release states.

Synthetic urine was also found during the search of the Valero, which was made illegal for possession and or sale in Mississippi by the Legislature back in July of this year, said Picayune Police Department Assistant Chief James Bolton.

Allison said that assistance in the case was provided by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and the Poplarville Police Department.

Arrested as part of this case were: Savannah Haas, 24 of 212 Upstart St., Poplarville; for possession of marijuana, sale, transfer or distribution of a controlled substance, controlled substance violation; Naji Asrel, 24, of 1415 Alpine Rd. for three counts of sale, transfer or distribution of a controlled substance; Falah Taweic Fadel, 28, of 1315 Alpine Rd. for sale, transfer or distribution of a controlled substance and trafficking a controlled substance; Fuad Fadhel, 33, of 101 S. Beech St. for possession of paraphernalia; Emam Nafal, 20, of 9540 Lindale Ave., Baton Rouge for controlled substance violations; Muhammad Nafal, 35, of 1432 Cottondale Dr., Apt. 6, Baton Rouge for possession of a controlled substance and Sami Naji, 22, of 127 Jasmine Dr. for possession of paraphernalia.

In addition to the arrests, a large sum of money was seized as part of the operation as well as one vehicle.

“We support our local businesses, but we will not tolerate them selling these types of narcotics that are causing residents to overdose, especially children,” Allison said.

“The safety of our children is paramount,” Bolton added.

In addition to having glass pipes available for purchase that state they are for tobacco use only, it was also determined that staff at the Valero in Picayune were allegedly selling alcohol to minors, leading to the business’ alcohol permit being revoked for about 30 days.

Allison and Bolton said they appreciate the assistance provided by MBN and the Poplarville Police Department.