Feds: Detroit deli manager buys fentanyl from China to be mixed with morphine, sold to drug dealers

Mowafaq Barash accused in scheme

A Detroit deli manager is accused in a drug scheme. (WDIV)
A Detroit deli manager is accused in a drug scheme. (WDIV) (Shutterstock via CNN)

DETROIT – The manager of a Detroit deli is accused of using the business as a front to purchase fentanyl from China to be mixed with a cutting agent that contains morphine and sold to drug dealers, federal officials said.

Deli manager accused

Mowafaq Barash is accused of running the operation out of K&G Deli, which is located at 5625 Connor Street on the city's east side.

Federal officials said Barash was involved with arranging payments for purchases of fentanyl and other materials from China that have been linked to packages containing synthetic drugs, pill press parts and binding agents for pressing pills.

Barash is known as someone who would supply a cutting agent, or cut, that apparently contains morphine, officials said.

The cut was intended to be mixed with other controlled substances, such as fentanyl, before being sold by drug dealers to users of the product, according to authorities.

How Barash used deli

Officials said potential buyers would go to K&G Deli to purchase the cutting agent containing morphine by asking for "floor cleaner" or other slang terms.

Authorities said there were at least four separate occasions in which Barash sold the cut to a buyer. In one instance, he also referred a buyer to "Kal down the street" to buy the "carpet cleaner."

"Kal" is the nickname for Khaldoon Hannawa, according to officials. Hannawa is the registered agent for Nolan's Inc., which operated under the assumed name K&G Deli, officials said.

November 2017 sale

Federal agents said Barash sold three kilograms of the cutting agent to a buyer Nov. 18, 2017, at K&G Deli.

The buyer walked up to the store and saw Barash behind the counter, officials said. After a discussion, Barash went out of sight, grabbed some of the cutting agent and told the buyer to put the money in a turnaround payment window to complete the sale, according to authorities.

December 2017 sales

On Dec. 5, 2017, the buyer returned to K&G Deli to complain that the cutting agent was weak, officials said.

Barash told the buyer that the base contained 2 percent morphine and explained in detail how to properly mix it with fentanyl, authorities said. He described the proper mix ratio of fentanyl to cut, officials said.

On Dec. 19, 2017, the buyer returned and discussed purchasing more cutting agent from Barash and asked if he would sell them a finished product containing a mix of both cut and fentanyl, according to authorities.

Barash told the buyer that "Bobby" could make the finished product if he was given the necessary ingredients, officials said. Agents said Barash offered to introduce the buyer to "Bobby."

Authorities identified "Bobby" as Bobby Buckley, who was indicted on a count of attempted possession of a controlled substance analogue with intent to distribute. Buckley pleaded guilty on Jan. 8, 2019, officials said.

Carafentanil mix

The buyer told Barash they didn't have any fentanyl, and Barash told them it was better to mix the cut with carafentanil because it was stronger, according to officials.

Barash agreed to sell the buyer 2 kg of cutting agent and 150 grams of the finished product from Buckley for comparison, officials said.

The buyer was told to return in about an hour for the sale, officials said.

When the buyer returned to K&G Deli, Barash wasn't there, and the buyer spoke with a man believed to be Barash's brother, according to authorities.

The buyer waited as the man spoke with Barash on the phone, and the man told the buyer he had the cutting agent but not the finished product, officials said.

Agents said the man brought out a brown paper bag with two plastic bags, each containing one kilogram of the cutting agent. He put one plastic bag on a top shelf in K&G Deli and handed the buyer the paper bag in exchange for $6,000.

The man also offered to sell the buyer marijuana at a later date, when his crop was ready for production, according to authorities.

January 2018 sale

On Jan. 16, 2018, the buyer met Barash in the parking lot of K&G Deli and bought 2 kg of cutting agent for $6,000, officials said.

During the sale, Barash offered to sell the buyer 10 grams of carafentanil for $10,000 when his shipment arrived, according to officials.

Barash later told the buyer he was having trouble getting his shipment of caranfentanil and asked about buying 100 grams from the buyer, officials said.

Barash arrested in Wendy's parking lot

On June 14, 2018, Barash met the buyer in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant down the street from K&G Deli, officials said.

The buyer gave Barash what he believed to be 100 grams of carafentanil, and Barash gave the buyer about four pounds of marijuana and 15 kg of cutting agent, according to authorities.

Barash was arrested before collecting any payment on the transaction, officials said.

Search warrant at K&G Deli

Law enforcement agents executed a search warrant that day at K&G Deli, finding two digital scales, three drug presses, a metal cup with residue, one Beretta 9 mm pistol with a magazine, one round of 9 mm ammunition mixed with coins, one loaded Smith & Wesson five-shot revolver, $106,904 in cash and $3,115.13 in coins.

One of the digital scales contained residue and was found in a box with plastic bags, officials said.

A law enforcement K-9 alerted officials to narcotic odors inside the office, specifically in the area of locking file cabinets where some of the money was found, authorities said.

Money was found in the office area from a shelf, a safe, locking cabinets and a file cabinets, according to officials.

More information from special agents

Special agents said drug traffickers often generate large amounts of money and keep it on hand to maintain and finance their ongoing drug business. They said dealers often hide their money in spots where it can be readily accessed.

Agents believe the large amount of money found in the deli is evidence that it was spent or intended to be spent on drugs. They said the amount of money was excessive for such a small store.

Agents said it's common for drug dealers to have guns to protect themselves, their drugs and their money.

Authorities requested that the money be turned over to the government.

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