Convenience store owner Fouad Masoud, owner of the King Mini Mart on South Kedzie Avenue on the west side of Chicago, will spend the next seven years in prison for selling K2 laced with rat poison. Prosecutors had fought for a sentence of 10 years, citing Masoud’s admission to selling upwards of 80 packages of K2 a day.

2018 Outbreak of K2-Related Sicknesses in Chicago Led to Shop Owner’s Arrest

Between March and April 2018, the Illinois Department of Health had received roughly 100 reports of hospitalizations due to severe bleeding. After recognizing a pattern in the cases, state health officials began linking them to patients’ consumption of so-called synthetic marijuana.

Typically sold under the monicker of “K2” or “Spice,” synthetic marijuana is a lab-made analog of the THC cannabinoid cannabis plants naturally produce. But these lab-made copies are imperfect and typically, way more potent, with more severe, long-lasting effects, than natural cannabis.

But it’s not the synthetic cannabinoids that are necessarily making people sick. Rather, its the mysterious chemical mixture used to produce the imitation cannabis compounds. During the 2018 rash of severe bleeding cases in Chicago, patients showed signs that they had consumed brodifacoum, otherwise known as rat poison. Brodifacoum is a lethal anti-coagulant that causes severe internal bleeding. Its effects can last up to months and are often fatal.

Amid the investigation launched to respond to the K2 epidemic, allegations surfaced that one of the victims had purchased synthetic marijuana from King Mini Mart, owned by Masoud. Chicago police sent an undercover cop to the convenience store to buy a packet of the drug. Lab tests later revealed the packet contained rat poison, which led to a criminal complaint against Masoud.

Chicago Shop Owner Said He Did Not Know He Was Selling Poisonous K2

When authorities arrested Fouad Masoud, he was in possession of $344,000 in cash and about 6.4 pounds of synthetic cannabis packets branded “Purple Giant,” according to court documents. DEA agents also shut down the King Mini Mart and arrested two employees, charging them for drug conspiracy.

Both employees agreed to cooperate with the investigation. One employee showed DEA agents where Masoud hid his stash of synthetic marijuana to avoid detection: in a hole in the ground behind his shop.

After his arrest, Masoud pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges in September. He admitted to selling drug packets manufactured overseas, but Masoud said that he had no idea that the K2 he was selling contained rat poison. “Maybe I got a bad batch,” Masoud said during his sentencing hearing.

“You didn’t know there was rat poison in it, but you also didn’t care what you were selling,” said U.S. District Judge Manish Shah. “it was just about money for you.”

In fact, Chicago police had previously cited Masoud, before his arrest, for selling K2. Masoud knew the synthetic drugs were banned. But he continued selling K2 to customers under the radar.

Several of the victims of the rat-poisoned K2 sold at Masoud’s shop barely escaped with their lives. Many nearly succumbed to uncontrollable internal bleeding. However, no deaths were tied directly to the K2 sold at Masoud’s shop.

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