Owner of Utah smoke shops faces federal charges over spice sales

Crime • Warrant estimated $77,000 in product sold in his South Jordan, Kaysville stores.
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The owner of two Utah smoke shops faces federal charges for selling a banned substance known as "spice."

Adel Al-Mukahel, 44, is charged with four counts of conspiracy to distribute and possession of a controlled-substance analogue and with one count of money laundering. A federal grand jury also indicted an employee on distribution and possession charges.

Al-Mukahel, who lives in West Valley City, and the employee have both entered pleas of not guilty. A four-day trial is set for March 5 before U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby.

The Davis County Metro Narcotics Strike Force and the DEA Metro Narcotics Strike Force investigation began after police received a tip that spice was being sold at Victor's Smoke Shop in Kaysville. Spice is an herb and plant mixture that is sprayed with or soaked in the chemical compound THC, found in marijuana. When ingested, spice produces similar physical effects to marijuana.

An undercover agent bought $40 worth of spice labeled as "Fusion Potpourri" in March at the Kaysville shop. A confidential informant and an undercover agent each subsequently bought $25 worth of spice labeled as "4 Acez" or "X Chill" at the South Jordan store.

The investigation also documented additional purchases of the banned substance, which a search warrant estimates made up 75 percent to 80 percent of the sales at the Kaysville shop, through October.

A court document alleges proceeds of those sales were then laundered through a known member of the Iraqi Mafia Gang.

The search warrant estimates that in August 2012 alone, the two stores sold more than $77,000 worth of spice and related merchandise.