Judge Virginia Ward was arrested on Saturday, March 30 and charged with intent to distribute.
Frank Smith, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency, said Ward received a package in the mail through the U.S. Postal Service containing 338 tablets of oxycodone.
The DEA believes Ward had the intent to distribute the pills to another person who would in turn sell the painkillers on the streets of Salt Lake. The DEA’s Metro Narcotics Task Force had been investigating Ward for the past several months and was running surveillance on a P.O. Box unit.
“They have a tremendous medical purpose and to relieve pain in patients who are truly suffering, but when they’re abused in this nature, it’s synthetic heroin,” Smith said. “It’s extremely addictive and it does affect our society.”
ABC 4 Reporter Cristina Rendon went to Ward’s house Monday evening to try and get her side of the story. No one answered the door.
Smith said Ward’s arrest is significant. The DEA believes she is linked to a larger opioid trafficking case based in California, with ties to Nevada and Salt Lake City. The DEA plans to arrest more people soon in all three states.
According to Smith’s bio page, she was appointed to the Salt Lake City Justice Court in July 2002. At the time of her appointment, Judge Ward was director of the Office of Administrative Hearings, Utah Department of Human Services, and served as an Administrative Law Judge for that office. She previously served as a senior assistant Salt Lake City prosecutor from 1994 to 2000.
The Chief Justice of the Utah State Courts suspended Ward with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.
The Utah Attorney General will investigate Ward’s case. She will also be under the microscope by the Judicial Conduct Commission. Depending on the outcome, her punishment could range from a reprimand to removal from office.
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