Fresno, California - Three Bakersfield brothers were arrested Friday on charges of manufacturing and distributing synthetic cannabinoids, commonly known as spice, following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the California Highway Patrol, the Bakersfield and Fresno police departments.

Yousef Aezah, 27, Adhim Aezah, 22, and Dirar Aezah, 18, all of Bakersfield, were arraigned following their arrest before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer L. Thurston. In addition to manufacturing and distributing spice, the men are charged in a four-count indictment handed down Thursday with conspiracy and maintaining drug-involved premises. During their Friday court appearance, the men pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

According to court documents, the Aezahs operated a website through which they distributed large quantities of synthetic cannabinoids, including AB-CHMINACA, a Schedule I controlled substance. The Aezahs manufactured the synthetic cannabinoids at a warehouse in Bakersfield and shipped the substance using the U.S. Postal Service to customers across the country. During the investigation, authorities executed search warrants at the warehouse and the defendants’ residences, resulting in the seizure of $300,000 in cash from the residences and approximately $949,000 from a bank account controlled by Yousef Aezah.

Spice consists of plant material sprayed with ever-changing active chemical ingredients often produced in clandestine laboratories in China. These chemicals mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

“Synthetic drugs pose grave dangers to public health,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, special agent in charge of HSI San Francisco. “Users of these substances rarely know exactly what chemicals they are consuming, which all too often leads to a very dangerous outcome.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Grant B. Rabenn and Jeffrey A. Spivak are prosecuting the case.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance, and conspiracy; and 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for maintaining a drug-involved premises.