A federal jury recently convicted a Mountain View man of importing and intending to distribute heroin, according to the Department of Homeland Security. He faces at least 10 years in prison.
Federal officers arrested 23-year-old Mike Gama on June, 20, 2011 after he signed for a package from Mexico that was addressed to him. The package contained a tortilla press which had more than a kilogram of black tar heroin hidden inside, a DHS press release reported.
"That's a lot," Sgt. Sean Thompson, public information officer for the Mountain View Police Department, said. No one in the MVPD knew about the heroin bust until they were questioned about it by the Voice, Thompson said. Federal officers conducted the operation without the participation of local law enforcement.
An 18-month investigation followed Gama's arrest, according to the release. During that time government agents built a case intended to show that "Gama had knowingly participated in a scheme to import heroin into the U.S." The jury agreed and convicted Gama of "possession with intent to distribute a kilogram or more of heroin" and "importation of a kilogram or more of heroin."
The evidence presented at Gama's trial showed that Gama had signed for the package containing the tortilla press and heroin, which was shipped to him via DHL Express from Michoacan, Mexico. That package had initially been stopped by customs and border patrol officers who were inspecting international shipments at the DHL hub in Cincinnati.
Gama, who had been free on bail, was taken into custody by the United States Marshals, the release said. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 15 in San Jose by U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Davila. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. The maximum penalty is life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million.
According to the DEA, black tar heroin is a type of heroin found mostly in the western United States. It is produced in Mexico and differs from "white heroin," which comes from Colombia and is primarily sold on the East Coast.
According to a National Drug Intelligence Center report on heroin published in 2000, a "kilogram of 79 percent pure black tar heroin sold for $40,000 to $75,000 in Imperial County" in 1999.
Thompson said the MVPD arrests people for possession of heroin from time to time. "It's not as common as meth," he said. "But we do see it."