13 convicted in khat smuggling case sentenced

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) - Five men and women convicted of smuggling millions of dollars' worth of the illegal African drug khat into the U.S. all received prison sentences of one year or less.

The sentences, ranging from four to 12 months, were significantly less than what was sought by prosecutors in a case that cost millions of dollars to pursue. The five sentenced Friday in federal court in Alexandria were among 13 convicted earlier this year.

Authorities say it was one of the largest khat smuggling rings they ever disrupted. Khat is popular in Somalia and Yemen, the native countries of the defendants. Users chew the leaf to release stimulants that produce a mild high.

The defendants sought minimal jail sentences, saying they were casual users of a product common in their culture.