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Law enforcement says heroin bust is largest in Utah history

Published July 18, 2013 5:29 pm

Crime • 90 pounds of the drug seized in Utah and Arizona from "major" trafficking ring.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Authorities announced Thursday that the combined effort of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies resulted in a heroin bust they are calling the largest in Utah history.

Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said 90 pounds of heroin had been seized so far from a "major heroin trafficking organization" operating in Utah and Phoenix, Ariz..

The six-month investigation also netted more than $500,000 in cash and 22 vehicles.

Thirty pounds of the drug — which officials described as heroin in its purest form — was seized in Utah, which is a record for the state, Winder said.

Some $250,000 of the cash was seized in Utah.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said the bust was going to have a "profound impact" at state and federal levels.

The investigation involved 17 arrests — all but four in Utah, officials said.

The drugs were linked to an, as yet, unnamed Mexican drug trafficking operation.

Winder said more arrests and seizures are possible.

The 90 pounds of drugs was conservatively estimated to be worth about $6 million on the street, said Lt. Phil Murphy with the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force. Officials said the illegal drug organization was likely selling hundreds of pounds of heroin and laundering millions of dollars each year.

"There are many families that have been tragically touched by this addiction problem," Murphy said.

Murphy said investigators in Phoenix were unaware the drug ring was operating there until Utah investigators alerted them to its existence.

Other details about the case, including how the busts occurred and where, were withheld because the investigation is ongoing, officials said.

The bust was the result of a multi-agency investigation, including the Unified Police Department, Utah County Major Crimes Task Force, Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

— Tribune reporter Bob Mims contributed to this story.

jstecklein@sltrib.com

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