KAYSVILLE -- The owner of a Davis County smoke shop, who police say is linked to the Iraqi Mafia gang, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with a $60,000 spice bust.
The undercover bust was carried out in November by the Davis Metro Narcotics Strike Force and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The indictment, unsealed Friday, charges Adel Al-Mukahel, owner of Victor's Smoke Shop in Kaysville and VIP Smokes and Hookah in South Jordan, and his associate, Hani Al-Saimari, with the following offenses:
* Conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance analogue.
* Conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.
* Possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
* Conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Each offense carries a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years.
In addition, Al-Mukahel is also charged with money laundering, which has a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
Al-Mukahel was arraigned Thursday and Al-Saimari was arraigned Friday, both in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Al-Mukahel and Al-Saimari were arrested following an 11-month undercover investigation at Victor's Smoke Shop and VIP Smokes and Hookah, completed Nov. 1.
Police seized more than 27 pounds of spice, including more than 11 pounds from Al-Mukahel's residence in West Valley City, according to the Davis Metro Narcotics Strike Force.
The spice has an estimated street value of nearly $60,000. Authorities also seized more than $230,000 in cash as a result of the investigation.
Spice, a synthetic drug that gives the user a marijuana-like high, is banned in Utah. President Barack Obama, in July, signed into law legislation prohibiting spice, bath salts and other synthetic drugs.
Federal court documents filed by DEA Special Agent Matt Fairbanks in support of a Nov. 15 search warrant details criminal allegations against Al-Mukahel and Al-Saimari.
Al-Mukahel is considered dangerous because of his association with Maithan Alfatwali, described as a ranking member of the Iraqi Mafia gang that operates in the Salt Lake City area, Fairbanks said.
"Your affiant received information from other law enforcement agencies that Alfatwali is heavily involved in money laundering for the gang, specifically for drug sales," Fairbanks states in the documents.
"Your affiant was informed by Salt Lake City gang detectives that the Alfatwali family and Iraqi Mafia members have armed themselves and have actively made threats against law enforcement officials."
Salt Lake City police say the Iraqi Mafia gang was involved in a 2009 shooting in which an Alfatwali family member was killed by police, the court document states.
The federal court documents obtained by the Standard-Examiner detail the investigation of Al-Mukahel and his suspected spice operations in Kaysville and South Jordan.
The following narrative of events is taken from the court documents:
The Kaysville Police Department received a complaint in December 2011 that Victor's Smoke Shop was selling spice.
In January, police found a Subaru Legacy behind the business with its trunk open and 124 plastic containers of spice inside. The car was registered to Al-Mukahel, the court document indicates.
In March, Kaysville police referred the case to the Davis Metro Narcotics Strike Force after they were unable to contact Al-Mukahel.
Undercover agents went to Victor's Smoke Shop and spoke to a store employee about hookah tobacco and purchasing spice to mix with it.
The employee told the agents the store sells spice, but Al-Mukahel only sells it to known customers, according to the court document.
On March 15, one of the agents bought from the store two bags of spice labeled as "Fusion Potpourri" for $40. Also, on May 1, an agent bought a package of spice, labeled as "X Chill," for $20 from Al-Saimari, court documents indicate.
In addition, the informant detailed daily business transactions for Victor's Smoke Shop.
About 80 percent of the daily profits at the store came from the distribution of spice, split between cash and credit cards with sales tax not being applied to cash transactions, the informant reported.
"The cash and credit receipts from all sales go into the till (cash register) and are co-mingled with legitimate merchandise sales," court documents state. "The cash is withdrawn every night from the cash register and put into an envelope for Al-Mukahel to pick up."
The informant estimated the store earned $400 to $500 in cash each weekday and $1,000 in cash each day of the weekend. Fairbanks estimated Al-Mukahel's two stores in Kaysville and South Jordan made a total of $76,676 in cash from spice sales in July.
A four-day trial for Al-Mukahel and Al-Saimari is scheduled to begin March 5 before U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby.