Prosecutors have dropped all charges against two men arrested in the dramatic raid of an Old Goucher corner store last month after lab tests determined 29 pounds of suspected fentanyl and morphine that police seized from the store were not illicit drugs after all, the state’s attorney’s office confirmed.
Ahmed Alraohani, 49, and Sharif Shaibi, 22, both of the 5600 block of Hamlet Ave. in the city’s Hamilton Hills neighborhood, each spent about a month in jail following the raid of the Charles Village Discount Mart — where they both worked — before being ordered released after a court hearing Wednesday.
“From day one we told them it wasn’t drugs, and from day one they were like, ‘Whatever.’ They rolled their eyes. The cops were like, ‘It’s definitely drugs,’” said Alex Leikus, Alraohani’s attorney. “But it wasn’t.”
“The guys kept telling us, ‘It’s not drugs.’ The families kept telling us,” said John Hammann, Shaibi’s attorney. “What we were considering doing is an independent test, but we never got that far.”
Leikus and Hammann said they didn’t know what it was that was confiscated in such large amounts from the store, but their clients didn’t have criminal records and should have been released on bail instead of being held in jail pending the lab work.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby’s office confirmed Wednesday that the charges were dropped because the substances recovered from the store were not considered “controlled dangerous substances,” a legal term for illicit drugs, but otherwise declined to comment.
It was not clear what the substances were. Police declined to comment on Wednesday, saying they were gathering information about the lab work done in the case.
Baltimore Police called in a hazmat team Tuesday after finding what they suspect is a “substantial amount” of the highly-potent opioid fentanyl at a discount store in the city’s Old Goucher neighborhood.
The raid on the store drew lots of attention in early December in part because of the volume of suspected fentanyl, a powerful opioid that has become Baltimore’s number one killer, claiming more lives than heroin and street violence. The alleged amount — 16 pounds — drove police to tape off the store for hours while crews in HAZMAT suits entered to package up the substance.
Officers later walked out bag after bag of alleged drugs, and police outlined in charging documents a litany of packaging materials and other items they had uncovered and alleged were tied to the illegal drug trade. The suspected morphine made up the remaining 13 pounds, police had alleged.
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In a statement of charges, police alleged Alraohani “did possess controlled paraphernalia, to wit: glass vials, plastic tubes, small containers, gelatin capsules, ziplock bags, and false bottomed containers, under circumstances which reasonably indicate an intention to use the controlled paraphernalia for purposes of illegally administering a controlled substance.”
The HAZMAT crews could be seen using a small detection device on the scene.
Fentanyl — and more specifically, newer and newer analogs of the drug developed in Chinese labs — can be difficult to detect in labs here.
Dr. David R. Fowler, the state’s chief medical examiner, has said the constant adaptations of the drug have made it more difficult to test for in autopsies involving individuals who died from apparent overdoses, and Don Hibbert, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Baltimore, has said modifications to the drug have complicated prosecutions in the past.