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Narcotics
01/24/2013

Bay Area man faces at least 10 years in prison following conviction for heroin smuggling

Contraband was concealed inside wooden tortilla press

SAN JOSE, Calif. – A Bay Area man faces at least 10 years in prison after being found guilty Tuesday by a federal jury on charges stemming from his involvement in a scheme to import heroin into the United States from Mexico.

Mike Gama, 23, of Mountain View, was convicted of both possession with intent to distribute a kilogram or more of heroin and importation of a kilogram or more of heroin. The charges are the result of an 18-month probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The jury found that Gama had knowingly participated in a scheme to import heroin into the U.S. when he accepted delivery of a package containing more than a kilogram of heroin concealed inside a wooden tortilla press. The guilty verdict followed a weeklong jury trial.

Evidence presented during the trial showed that on June 20, 2011, Gama received a package shipped from Michoacan, Mexico, via DHL Express. Inside the package, which was addressed to Gama, was a wooden tortilla press containing more than one kilogram of a black tar-like substance. Subsequent lab tests confirmed the substance was Mexican black tar heroin. After Gama signed for the package, HSI special agents executed a search warrant to recover the parcel containing the heroin.

The package was initially intercepted by CBP officers inspecting arriving international shipments at DHL's hub in Cincinnati, Ohio. CBP alerted HSI special agents in San Jose, who then made preparations to seize the parcel when it arrived in California.

Following this week's guilty verdict, Gama, who had been free on bond, was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. His sentencing is scheduled for April 15 before U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Davila in San Jose. The maximum statutory penalty for each of the two counts is life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million, with a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gary G. Fry and Amie D. Rooney, with further support provided by Tracey Andersen and Laurie Worthen.