Federal prosecutors have announced the indictment of five people accused of being members of a multimillion-dollar synthetic drug ring operating in Minnesota.

U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said Thursday the indictment charges the five with conspiring to distribute synthetic cannabinoids.

According to court documents, starting in January 2010, Omar Ziad Wazwaz, 33, of New Brighton, owned and operated several smoke shops throughout Minnesota, including “Smokes 4 Less” in Mankato. The government alleges that Wazwaz sold smokable synthetic cannabinoids in his smoke shops. Starting in 2011, he’s accused of manufacturing his own brand of synthetic drugs, making millions of dollars.

The other four — Taleb Awad, 32, hometown unknown; Vladimir Brik, 25, of Duluth; Steven Lyke, 25, and Daniel Lyke, 26, both of Brookston, Minn. — are accused of conspiring with Wazwaz to manufacture and sell the drugs.

“Synthetic and designer drugs are both illegal and dangerous,” Luger said. “As alleged, these defendants created a criminal enterprise they believed would stay one step ahead of synthetic drug laws. It didn’t, and today they stand charged with conspiracy to sell illegal cannabinoids throughout Minnesota.”

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