Investigators make major drug busts on I-80 in Utah

Aug 19, 2020, 6:26 PM | Updated: 6:26 pm
Drug Busts I-80 Utah...
(Some of the drugs seized during a three-day operation by Utah Highway Patrol. Credit: Utah DPS)
(Some of the drugs seized during a three-day operation by Utah Highway Patrol. Credit: Utah DPS)

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah – State police make several major drug busts in Utah near the border at Wendover on the I-80.  Investigators seized hundreds of pounds of drugs and federal prosecutors say these busts are just a few examples of a major problem Utah is dealing with.

In late July, a worker at the Port of Entry near Wendover noticed a strong smell of marijuana coming from one of the semi-trucks.  Utah Highway Patrol troopers were called to investigate and reportedly found 341 packages of raw marijuana, vacuum-sealed in one-pound packages. 

(The vacuum-sealed bags of marijuana seized at the POrt of Entry. Credit: U.S. Attorney’s Office)

“If you stack all those 341 packages of one pound of marijuana, it’s about the size of a patrol car,” according to U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber.

Troopers also say they found over 12 hundred THC vape cartridges, 150 THC chocolate bars, and 126 packages of TCH edibles.  The couple, Florin Goron and Claudia Marie De Marco were both indicted for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and face a minimum of five years in federal prison.

Huber says, “Five years in federal prison should be a deterrent, but the money, the profit involved here is just too much to resist.  People are willing to take a risk of five years in prison to run a load like this.”

Officials estimate the street value of that much raw marijuana could be roughly $1 million.  Huber says there are drug havens on the west coast that can’t control the black market and the overproduction they created, so Utah is left to fend for itself.

In a separate case, two people were arrested for transporting over 200 pounds of marijuana on I-80 in Tooele County.  Court documents show James Garth and Barbara Wilmoth were pulled over for speeding, but a K9 officer found bags full of marijuana in a BMW they were hauling.  Officers also allegedly found THC wax and hundreds of THC vaping cartridges.  Garth reportedly admitted he was paid to transport the drugs across from California to Utah.

Over the span of three days in August, officials from the Department of Public Safety say they seized 556 pounds of cannabis, 37 pounds of edibles, 51 grams of Ecstasy/Molly, 18 grams of mushrooms, 14 grams of cocaine as well as two handguns.  In all, 17 people were arrested.

(Some of the drugs and edibles seized by UHP. Credit: DPS)

Department Commissioner Jess Anderson says Utah is still the Crossroads of the West for illegal activity because of I-15, I-80, and I-70 that connect our state to the east and west coasts.

“What we often find is that drugs are coming west and going east, illegal money comes east and goes back to the west,” he says.

The drug trade is an ever-changing business, and Anderson says it’s hard to predict which drugs will be found by their officers.  However, they’re always working to determine which agencies are behind the trafficking.

Anderson says, “Sometimes, that [includes] human trafficking, it sometimes leads to money laundering and sometimes it leads to illegal drugs.”

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Investigators make major drug busts on I-80 in Utah