North Carolina

Synthetic drug in vapes sickened at least 100 North Carolina military members, feds say

When Marines at Camp Lejeune started having seizures and hallucinations, investigators realized something was wrong.

By the time the investigation was complete, federal agents said they found more than 100 Marine Corps members at the base with “Black Magic,” an illegal synthetic drug that was sold at vape shops in Eastern North Carolina.

Soldiers at Fort Bragg were also hospitalized after using the drug, prosecutors say.

A 52-year-old Wilson man was sentenced this week to more than four years in prison for selling the drug, called 5F-ADB, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney for Eastern North Carolina.

Akram Abdel-Aziz sold the synthetic cannabinoid to vape shops in Onslow, Craven, Wilson, Cumberland, New Hanover, and Pamlico counties between March 2017 and April 2018, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors say there were “dozens of instances” of people taking the drug and then having seizures or hallucinations, losing consciousness and experiencing paranoia or cardiac arrest.

“The military was particularly hard hit as more than 100 military members fell ill and/or required medical attention after ingesting the substance,” according to the news release.

Prosecutors say “a large number of military personnel” were kicked out for using the drug, “negatively impacting the readiness of certain units.”

The criminal complaint filed by a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service said there had been “more than 40 medical incidents” involving the synthetic drug at Camp Lejeune.

The agent said there had been other medical incidents in the counties around Jacksonville including high school students who took the synthetic drug.

Investigators say Abdel-Aziz got the drug in regular shipments through FedEx from a wholesaler and he paid with checks on delivery from Western Union, according to the criminal complaint.

When police arrested Abdel-Aziz, they found labels for “Black Magic” vape product, bottles to sell the synthetic drug to consumers and $200,000 in cash along with more of the drug, prosecutors say.

Abdel-Aziz pleaded guilty late last year to money laundering and conspiracy to distribute the drug. A judge sentenced him this week to serve 50 months in prison and three years of supervised release.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.