Former Waterloo Store Manager To Plead Guilty in Synthetic Drug Case

By Trish Mehaffey, The Gazette

WATERLOO, Iowa. -- An Evansdale man will plead guilty Monday in federal court for distribution of synthetic drugs in 2012.

Earl “E.J.” Ramos was indicted in March and charged with two counts of distribution of a controlled substance analogue, according to a criminal complaint. Ramos, the manager of the Five Snacks store, 315 Fletcher Ave., in Waterloo, will plead to one count and faces 20 years in federal prison.

Waterloo Police initially found synthetic drug products being sold at the store and confiscated them and informed Ramos they were illegal, according to an affidavit. Ramos then concealed the products and only sold to certain individuals and a confidential informant was sent to the store by a task force to purchase bath salts or incense items, which contained controlled substances, in two separate incidents in October 2012.

The store was raided after the incidents as part of a synthetic drugs or K2 national enforcement, in which other Eastern Iowa stores also were selling bath salts or incense commonly smoked like marijuana and contain illegal substances.

According to the affidavit, authorities conducted a search of the store and Ramos’ truck, where they seized synthetic drugs and cash. Ramos told officers the more than $14,000 seized came from the sale of synthetics and other items sold at the business.

Officers also conducted a search of a home where Ramos lived, according to the affidavit. Officers seized a large quantity of synthetic marijuana, bath salts, an undetermined amount of U.S. and Canadian money, five firearms, 13 boxes of ammunition, three laptops, two computer towers, business records, Western Union receipts, drug ledger and a bottle of Ritalin.

Prosecutors have filed a civil forfeiture for $14,136, which they contend is proceeds from the sale of controlled substances or controlled substance analogues, and/or used to facilitate the sale.

Muhammad Chaudhry, owner of the Waterloo snack store, filed a claim in February for the seized money, which he said came from his business, according to an affidavit. He stated all required taxes had been documented and paid on the money. He hasn’t been charged in the case.

Ramos and three other Eastern Iowans face synthetic drug charges - his mother Mary Ramos, 52, who’s trial is set later this month, and Mohammad, 36, and Melissa, 33, Al Shararei, just charged last week. The charges resulted from the national enforcement operation, Project Synergy.

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