Dutchess Drug Task Force takes down major counterfeit opioid operation

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Zaid Market, center of criminal operation

POUGHKEEPSIE – The Dutchess County Drug Task Force and sheriff’s office Detective Bureau have dismantled a local criminal enterprise operating from the Zaid Market and Deli at 541 Main Street in the City of Poughkeepsie.

The store owner, Rami Nshaiwat, and his employees were distributing illegal opioid narcotics, much of which were being sold as “counterfeit” Oxy 30 mg pills.

The pills, called “Blues,” for their color, or “M30s” for the stamp on each pill, are so well manufactured that experienced users cannot tell the difference between the real and fake pills.

While they may be peddled as the common pharmaceutical-grade painkiller oxycodone, they are laced with fentanyl, which can kill the user.

Authorities said they are especially dangerous because the amount of fentanyl varies from pill to pill in the same batch and two milligrams, the weight of a mosquito, in a pill can kill.

The investigation found the counterfeit pills were being obtained through internet orders on the dark web sold by Poughkeepsie resident Elyse DeGeorge, who sold them in large quantities to Nshaiwat and his employees for sale in the store.

They were also delivered in large quantities to other locations across the country for distribution.

In connection with this operation, there was also a large scale money laundering and bulk cash smuggling operation occurring state to state.

Nshaiwat and his employees were also running a fraudulent SNAP – food stamp – trafficking operation by allowing over 150 local benefit recipients to traffic their electronic benefits transfer cards, allowing the theft of thousands of dollars in state food benefits from the state.

Nshaiwat lost his license to sell those food stamp cards in 2018 so he arranged for the card transactions to be completed through another local store, the DAAWAT@ Mid-Hudson Asian Market at 1554 Route 9 in Wappinger.

Investigation found the owner, Syed Rahman, received 20 percent, the Zaid Market took 30 percent and the benefit holder got 50 percent of the fraudulent transaction.

Since the beginning of 2020, investigation found over $100,000 in benefit money was stolen from the state. The investigation is continuing.

Also, a six-month sting requested 200 cartons of cigarettes with a retail value of $25,000.

Nshaiwat was arrested after the transaction was completed paying $10,000 in cash for the cigarettes.

Search warrants were executed at Zaid Market and an adjoining apartment where hundreds of fentanyl and oxycodone pills were seized along with scales, packaging materials, thousands in stolen tools and merchandise, thousands of dollars in untaxed tobacco products, over 100 food stamp cards and access information.

The investigation also found liquor license violations, county health department violations and reports of attempted sex trafficking from the store and sexual harassment allegations.

Majda Masarweh
Rami Nshaiwat
Elyse DeGeorge

Six people were arrested in connection with the investigation – Rami Nshaiwat, 50, of Poughkeepsie; Monir Masarweh, 57, of Poughkeepsie; Majdi Masarweh, 59, of Poughkeepsie; Nandis Spearman, 32, of Poughkeepsie; Syed Rahman, 58, of Wappingers Falls; and Elyse DeGeorge, 26, of Poughkeepsie.

All subjects were processed and released.

Police said additional charges may be filed.

Nandis Spearman
Syed Rahman
Monir Masarweh

Several local, state and federal agencies were involved in the investigation.