DPS and U.S. Attorney Announce Operation Rio Grande Indictment
SALT LAKE CITY – A four-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City charges James Musa Gama, age 39, of Salt Lake City, with two counts of possession of the synthetic cannabinoid commonly known as “spice” and two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
U.S. Attorney for Utah John W. Huber and Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires announced the indictment Monday.
Gama was arrested on as federal complaint filed Mar. 5, 2018. U.S. Magistrate Judge Brooke C. Wells ordered him to remain in custody after finding he constitutes a risk of danger to the community during an initial appearance Wednesday. He is scheduled for an arraignment on the indictment Thursday at 10:45 a.m.
According to the complaint, Gama came to the attention of Department of Public Safety agents working with the Operation Rio Grande Drug Task Force during enforcement efforts in the Pioneer Park area in December 2017 and January 2018. The task force was targeting the suspected distribution of the synthetic cannabinoid commonly known as “spice.”
While working in an undercover capacity in Pioneer Park on Dec. 12, 2017, an unidentified man approached an agent asking what he was looking for. The agent said he was looking for spice. The unidentified man led the agent to Gama, who sold him one jar of spice for $40. Other agents arrested Gama. During a search incident to arrest, agents found five additional jars of spice in Gama’s possession, along with the $40 the agent had given him. The Utah Bureau of Forensic Services later identified the substance in the jars as FUM-AMB, a Schedule 1 synthetic cannabinoid. Agents also found a loaded handgun, previously reported as stolen, in Gama’s waistband.
According to the complaint, Gama told agents he had been selling three or four jars of spice per day. He said he carried the handgun, which he bought for $300, for protection after being robbed and shot a year earlier.
Agents had a second encounter with Gama and two other individuals in Pioneer Park on Jan. 31, 2018, where they bought four jars containing suspected spice. Gama and the two others, identified as R.S. and M.G. in the complaint, were arrested. During a search incident to arrest, agents found another loaded handgun in GAMA’s waistband. Again, the Utah Bureau of Forensic Services identified the substance in the jars as a Schedule 1 synthetic cannabinoid. According to the complaint, Gama told agents he purchased the handgun for protection about a week earlier. Gama also said he had purchased the four jars of spice earlier in the day to sell at Pioneer Park.
The two spice counts in the indictment each carry potential 20-year sentences. The firearms counts each carry five-year minimum mandatory sentences, which would run consecutive to any sentence imposed for the spice counts.
Indictments are not findings of guilt. Individuals charged in indictments are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court.
Agents with Utah Department of Public Safety are investigating the case. Prosecutors in the Utah U.S. Attorney’s Office are prosecuting the case.