Skip to main content

Federal charges: Five used MN smoke stores to peddle synthetic pot


It might have seemed like the ideal "under your nose" criminal enterprise, but an alleged scheme to use a chain of Minnesota smoke shops as a front to sell synthetic marijuana has led to federal charges against five men.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Minneapolis says the defendants operated the drug ring beginning in 2011, selling their illicit products out of the "Smokes 4 Less" shops, according to a news release. One location is in Mankato.

One of the men charged, 33-year-old Omar Ziad Wazwaz, is the owner of the stores. Officials say the scheme earned him millions of dollars.

According to the charges, the businessman and his four co-conspirators sprayed synthetic cannabinoids – some of it imported from China and Liechtenstein – on a "leafy plant material," which would give their customers an experience similar to that found using marijuana.

They proceeded to sell their products in Wazwaz's stores under a wide variety of colorful names, including "Tiger's Blood," "Man of Steel,' and "Juicy Fruit."

Each of the defendants has been charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.

One of the men, 25-year-old Vladimir Vladimirovic, is apparently no stranger to headlines, reports the Grand Forks Herald.

The paper says he generated "publicity" in Duluth in 2011 when he was accused of carving a 10-inch "X" on a man's chest and threatened to burn him in an act of "vigilante" revenge. He was later sentenced to five years on probation.

The charges come amid a statewide crackdown on synthetic drugs. Last August, Minnesota lawmakers passed legislation toughening the state's laws on such substances, which have been described as highly dangerous, according to Governor Dayton's office.

Next Up

flickr - thin ice warning - USFWS Midwest

Snowmobiler goes through the ice on lake near Duluth

Ice thickness varies greatly throughout Minnesota right now.

snow, measuring snow, snow totals

Here's how much snow fell during the weekend winter winter storm

The Highway 2 corridor in north-central Minnesota was the bullseye.

Minneapolis Fire Department

Roof collapses on 3 firefighters in south Minneapolis

The fire happened at a residence east of Lake Nokomis on Sunday.

Joleigha Johnson

42-year-old Minnesota woman missing since December 1

She drives a white 2009 Chevrolet Impala.

icy roads, bad roads

20-year-old killed in crash on icy highway during Sunday snowstorm

More than a foot of snow had fallen in the area where the crash occurred.

Mike Zimmer

Vikings fans clamor for change after latest bad loss under Mike Zimmer

The "fire Mike Zimmer" tweets are raging on Twitter again.

Tony Oliva

Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat are finally heading to Cooperstown

The Twins legends were elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame on Sunday night.

Tanner Morgan

Report: Gophers to play in Guaranteed Rate Bowl

The Gophers will reportedly head to Phoenix to take on West Virginia.

Adam Thielen

Winless Lions beat Vikings on final play of game

Adam Thielen also left early with an ankle injury

Payton Willis / Gopher Basketball

Gophers improve to 7-0 on Willis' late 3-pointer

The Gophers earned back-to-back road victories for the first time since January 2017.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Woman in critical condition after being shot in the head in St. Paul

Officers responded to the incident at around 2:45 a.m. Saturday.