A Hudson Valley drug task force announced the arrests of six people and the dismantling of a local criminal enterprise that operated out of an area market and deli, officials said.
The Dutchess County Drug Task Force announced that they have broken up a drug ring that sold “counterfeit” Oxycodone pills and a fraudulent Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits out of the Zaid Market and Deli on Main Street in the city of Poughkeepsie for more than a year.
It is alleged that the owner of the market, Rami Nshaiwat, and his employees distributed large quantities of illegal opioids, including 30-milligram “counterfeit” Oxycodone pills, more commonly called “Blues,” or “M30s.”
The pills are meant to appear like common pharmaceutical-grade painkillers, but in reality, are laced with fentanyl.
Officials said that “the tablets are so well-made that even experienced users say they can’t tell the difference between a counterfeit pill and a pill manufactured by a pharmaceutical company.”
According to the Drug Task Force, the investigation into the pills being sold in Dutchess found that they were being obtained by area resident Elyse DeGeorge over the Dark web, who then sold them in large quantities to Nshaiwat and his employees to be distributed through the store.
Those pills were then delivered in large quantities to other locations across the country for distribution. As part of the operation, there was also a large scale of money laundering and bulk cash smuggling occurring between states.
In addition to distributing the counterfeit Oxycodone, Nshaiwat and his employees also allegedly ran a fraudulent SNAP trafficking operation by allowing more than 150 benefit recipients to traffic their EBT cards, allowing for the theft of tens of thousands of dollars in state food benefit funds from the state.
The investigation revealed local benefit recipients would sell the cash value of their benefit amount to the store in exchange for half its value, despite Nshaiwat losing his EBT license in 2018 for a similar scheme.
Officials said that Nshaiwat arranged for transactions to be completed through another local store, the DAAWAT @ Mid-Hudson Asian Market on Route 9 in Wappinger, where the store owner, Syed Rahman received a 20 percent kickback.
In total, the Zaid Market took 30 percent of the profit, Rahman received 20 percent, and the benefit holder received 50 percent of the transaction’s worth.
Officials said that an EBT transaction report for the Asian Market reveals since the beginning of 2020 more than $100,000.00 in benefit money was stolen from New York State.
The investigation into the BET scheme is ongoing.
According to the Dutchess County Drug Task Force, undercover agents have been going into the Zaid Market to purchase illegal drugs and sell the investigative EBT cards over the past six months.
During the investigation, property that has been presented as stolen was used to complete the transactions, including a request from Nshaiwat for 200 cartons of cigarettes, which have a value of more than $25,000, for which the store owner paid $10,000 as part of the transaction.
Nshaiwat was taken into custody after completing the transaction for the cartons of cigarettes.
Search warrants at Zaid Market and an adjoining apartment led to the seizure of hundreds of narcotic pills – mostly fentanyl and Oxycodone – scales, packaging materials, thousands of dollars worth of stolen tools and merchandise, more than 100 SNAP benefit cards, and thousands of dollars worth of untaxed tobacco products.
The investigation also revealed Liquor License violations, violations of the Dutchess County Health Department, and violations of local laws of the County Weights and Measures. There were also reports of attempted sex trafficking out of the store and sexual harassment allegations.
- Nshaiwat, age 50, and Monir Masarweh, age 57, both of Poughkeepsie, were both charged with third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a benefit card, and third-degree grand larceny, all felonies.
- Majdi Masarweh, age 59, of Poughkeepsie, was charged with third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and grand larceny.
- Spearman, age 32, a Poughkeepsie resident, and Rahman, age 58, a Wappingers Falls resident, were both charged with third-degree grand larceny, and Elyse DeGeorge, age 26, was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance.
Each of the suspects was processed and released following their arrest. The Sheriff noted that additional charges could follow pending the investigation.