Provo police have busted an elaborate drug ring spearheaded by an eighth-grade middle school student, who allegedly recruited sixth-graders to obtain the dope for him.
Provo Lt. Mathew Siufanua said Monday that eight 11-year-olds would leave Franklin Elementary and a 14-year-old boy, who attended Centennial Middle School, would hand them money and send them to a drug house near the school.
The kids would buy the drugs and bring them back to the teen. The teen would then use some of the drugs and sell the rest, Siufanua said.
"As payment for doing this, he'd get [the sixth-graders] high," Siufanua said, noting that the kids all knew one another through gang associations. He said the sixth-graders would get high using marijuana and spice.
Police suspect the ring has been operating since at least October, he said.
"We're glad we caught them, and we're glad we put an end to it," Siufanua said. "Basically this is organized crime on an elementary level."
Siufanua said that Centennial Middle School Resource Officer Dan Smith received information on Jan. 7 that the 14-year-old was allegedly engaged in drug trafficking.
Siufanua, who sent a news release Monday about the case, said police are searching for the drug house and the people who were selling drugs to the sixth-graders.
The 14-year-old was arrested on suspicion of felony drug distribution and child endangerment. He could potentially face as many as 150 counts of child endangerment because of the number of times he sent the sixth-graders to drug houses, Siufanua said.
"[The drug houses] are putrid," he said. "They're dangerous, usually with weapons and drugs."
Greg Hudnall, associate superintendent of the Provo City School District, called the drug ring an "isolated incident," since the students involved all knew one another.
The children involved in the drug ring will be suspended for breaking school policy, but the district also will arrange for them to get some professional help and counseling, Hudnall said. He did not say exactly how many students were suspended but said that it was "less than a dozen." The district also sent a letter home to the parents of all children at Franklin Elementary.
"Our goal is now to help the kids," Hudnall said.
Authorities plan to work closely with the courts to determine what should happen to them and to make sure they get the appropriate treatment.
Anyone with information about the investigation or the drug house is asked to call police at 801-852-6210.