Over two dozen indicted in large drug bust in Salt Lake City

Jun 1, 2021, 7:02 PM | Updated: 7:03 pm
drug bust salt lake city...
(Acting US Attorney for Utah, Andrea Martinez, at podium, describing the charges filed against alleged members of the drug ring. Photo: Paul Nelson)
(Acting US Attorney for Utah, Andrea Martinez, at podium, describing the charges filed against alleged members of the drug ring. Photo: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – A large drug bust took place in Salt Lake City Tuesday afternoon. Federal prosecutors have indicted 27 people for their role in bringing hundreds of pounds of drugs into Salt Lake City. Investigators report they’re not just concerned with the number of drugs this ring brought into the city, but they’re also concerned about the groups that have teamed together to supply them.

Large drug bust in Salt Lake City

Several different law enforcement agencies teamed together to track this particular ring. Investigators believe members of the Norteno gang brought the drugs into Salt Lake County for redistribution. 

Acting US Attorney for Utah Andrea Martinez said they believe this group brought in more than 400 pounds of drugs into Utah between 2020 and 2021.

“During this new investigation, law enforcement seized more than 42 pounds of methamphetamine, seven pounds of heroin, 5,000 fentanyl pills, 71 grams of fentanyl powder, 15 firearms and more than $25,000 during the course of the operation,” she said.

Prosecutors filed 34 federal charges against 27 people, which include continuing in a criminal enterprise, conspiracy to distribute, conspiracy to launder money and possession with intent to distribute. Five additional people were later named in a smaller indictment.

Martinez said, “Among the 32 defendants charged during this operation, 11 of them were previously convicted of “crimes in federal court here in Utah, and in Wyoming.”

Cartels coming together to supply drugs in Utah

While law enforcement was thrilled to be taking such a large amount of drugs off the streets, they’re also concerned about the groups providing the drugs. Agent Jay Tinkler with the DEA said meth is still the most popular drug in Utah, but what they’re seeing now is far more potent.

He said, “We’re looking at meth purity levels above 95 percent.  In the early 2000s, you just didn’t see that.”

Tinkler reported this is the first time they can link the Sinaloa cartel with the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion, or the CJNG, bringing drugs into Utah. He said CJNG is already well-known in other parts of the country, but Utah was previously considered Sinaloa “territory.”

“[You should be concerned] when you see two major criminal organizations starting to work together, become more compatible and spend less time fighting between themselves and making business decisions,” according to Tinkler.

Officials say the CJNG has the funding to mass-produce meth in quantities smaller drug dealers haven’t been able to make.  Plus, the cartel is becoming known for its extreme violence against high-ranking leaders in Mexico.

Tinkler said the level of violence connected to meth trafficking is already worse than it is for other drugs.

“You don’t see that violent crime when you see marijuana trafficking, fentanyl or heroin.  What you see is the violence tied to methamphetamine,” he said.

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Over two dozen indicted in large drug bust in Salt Lake City