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SALT LAKE CITY — Eight people, including five Utahns, face multiple federal charges for allegedly selling synthetic marijuana, known as Spice.
Police executed arrest warrants in Utah and California on Thursday after a two-month investigation, during which about 2,000 pounds of Spice were seized, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Salt Lake City. Authorities also confiscated guns, vehicles and cash.
Named in the indictment are Issa Haig Babikyan, 51, of Carlsbad, California; Michael Suliman Haig Babikyan, 25, of Murray; Fahad Ali Khalil, 24, of Murray; Ammar Ibrahim Alobaidi, 35, of Midvale; Yaser Saeed Majeed Al-Najjar, 46, of Murray; Joseph Lara Paez, 39, of Fresno, California; Tiffany Nicole Velo, 32, of Fresno, California, and Hanan Saeed, 43, of Salt Lake City.
Prosecutors charged them with conspiracy to distribute XLR-11, a synthetic cannabinoid commonly known as Spice; possession of Spice with intent to distribute; and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The maximum penalty for the drug counts is 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Conspiracy to commit money laundering carries a 20-year prison term and up to a $500,000 fine.
Spice is a mixture of herbs and spices that is typically sprayed with a synthetic compound similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. It is often more potent than organic marijuana.
Spice, often sold as "fake weed" or incense, is commonly bought in tobacco shops, various retail outlets and over the Internet.
Two FBI task forces, the Safe Streets Task Force and the Wasatch Range Task Force headed the investigation. Members include Salt Lake City, West Valley City, West Jordan, Sandy and Unified police departments; Utah Highway Patrol; the Utah Department of Public Safety and the Utah Department of Corrections.