Over the past six months, law enforcement agencies have been investigating a drug trafficking organization.
The bust in Utah and Arizona yielded more than 90 pounds of heroin, $500,000 in cash, 22 vehicles, and the arrests of 17 suspects, according to the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force. At least 30 pounds of heroin, $250,000 in cash and 13 arrests were made in Utah.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said the bust is significant because it puts a dent into the drug cartel operation. Winder declined to identify which Mexican cartel is operating in Utah.
“It’s historic,” Winder said. “We’ve hurt them and we hurt them bad.”
Salt Lake City is considered a major hub to traffic and distribute heroin and other controlled substances in Utah and five surrounding states: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, California and Oregon.
Winder said the bust is a sign of how embedded the cartel is in our community.
“I think that should be a real wake up call,” he said. “We have a heroin addiction problem in Utah.”
Authorities estimate the cartel is bring approximately 30 to 40 pounds of heroin through Utah streets per month, creating a profit of more than $500,000 a month in heroin and cocaine sales.
The estimated street value of the seized substances is more than $8 million.
Dennis Harris with the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force said heroin causes more deaths in Utah than the public realizes.
“If you start looking through the papers and you see a lot these young kids dying, a lot of that is attributed to heroine,” Harris said.
It is a sad trend that will continue as long as people are using opioids sold by the cartel.
“We’re in a battle with a very well financed, very well organized individuals that are making millions and millions on the narcotics they're selling to our community,” Winder added.
Within the past three days several search warrants have been conducted in Utah and Arizona.
Suspects arrested in Utah have been booked into the Salt Lake County Jail. Charges related to the possession and distribution of controlled substances are pending.
The bust was an joint investigation between the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force, Unified Police Department, Salt Lake County District Attorney's office with assistance from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and Arizona Department of Public Safety.