18 arrested, including 12 locals, in khat distribution ring

Eighteen people across four states, including 12 taken into custody in Northern Virginia and Maryland, were arrested Wednesday in connection with an interstate drug trafficking ring whose ringleader lived in Arlington.

Documents say that the group was involved in transporting and distributing 4.4 million grams of khat, a drug with effects similar to but less intense than that of methamphetamine or cocaine.

Prosecutors allege that Yonis Muhundin Ishak, a naturalized U.S. Citizen from Somalia who now lives in Arlington, used human couriers to transport the drugs from England, Canada and Holland to at least 15 states, including Washington, D.C.

Ishak would allegedly pay couriers about $1,000 per trip.

He and the 17 others have all been charged with conspiring to distribute cathinone. The penalty carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Several of the other locals arrested live in Springfield, Burke, Alexandria, Annandale, Clifton, Fairfax, Wheaton and Parkville, Md.