4 men charged with selling opium in 2 counties Police say they ran ring from carpet stores

January 29, 1998|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County police and federal agents have arrested four men on charges of running an opium ring out of the backs of carpet stores in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties, apparently the first opium arrests in the Baltimore-Washington corridor in at least two decades.

Police arrested Hajirahman Alejalil, 47, of the 15000 block of Indianola Drive in Derwood, Prince George's County; Majid Mostafa, 41, of the 10000 block of Prince Place in Largo; and Mehdi Livani, 46, and Touraj Zoulfaghary, 40, both of the first block of Pinkney St. in Annapolis at the stores late Tuesday.

During a nine-month investigation, undercover officers bought raw opium from the men, police said.

All four men were charged with distribution of drugs, possession of drugs and possession with intent to sell drugs. Livani and Zoulfaghary are Iranian citizens.

Police were looking for a fifth suspect yesterday.

During the raids, police confiscated 240 grams of raw opium, with an estimated value of $24,000, from four shops and an Annapolis residence -- a quantity police consider large because of its raw form and low street value in the United States.

Heroin, which is made from opium, is far more expensive, but police said they believe the men did not have the resources, equipment or inclination to make it.

The drug's appearance in this area, though, surprised police.

"It's a real concern for us that now it's available here," said Anne Arundel Police Sgt. Rex Snider, who headed the investigation.

Opium, a mushy black substance with potent vapors, saw its heyday in the Far East more than 100 years ago, but never had a major impact in the United States. It is widely regarded as one of the world's most addictive drugs.

Police said they do not know when or how this batch came into the area, but undercover agents' contacts suggested the opium originated in the Middle East.

Police in Arundel said the alleged ring involved a close-knit group of people and does not appear to be connected to youth or night-life activities.

"This is certainly not something we see every day," said Steven Derr, a supervisor with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Baltimore, who has had only one other opium case in his 15-year career.

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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