Federal drug agents say they have "decimated" a Utah-based cell of one of the world's most powerful drug cartels.
With the arrest Tuesday of seven suspects including some bosses an outlet of the Sinaloa cartel is "out of business," said Frank Smith, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Utah operations.
Tuesday's arrests were the culmination of an 18-month investigation that has led to 30 arrests in Utah, California and Nevada, as well as the seizure of 30 pounds of methamphetamine, 2.5 pounds of heroin, one kilo of cocaine, more than $320,000 in assets and many guns, including AK-47s.
Agents on Tuesday also searched the Mi Ranchito restaurant, near 3600 S. State St. in South Salt Lake, which housed meetings and administration for the cell, Smith said. He would not discuss the evidence seized at the restaurant or the people arrested, except to describe them as "command and control the bosses."
Agents hope evidence from the Utah investigation will lead to more arrests in Mexico, Smith said.
"We want to stay on top of this so we don't have the violence they have in other areas and bubbling over from Mexico," Smith said.
The bust has been one of the DEA's two biggest cases in Utah this year, rivaling the agency's investigations of marijuana farms on public land in southern Utah, Smith said.
"When you seize over 30 pounds of meth and close to half a million in cash and assets, that's significant, especially ... in Utah," Smith said.