Park City • Law enforcement officials say they hope to have dealt a devastating blow to the methamphetamine trade in northern Utah.
After a three-month undercover investigation, officers on Saturday arrested two men and a woman as a result of investigating a major drug-trafficking operation based in Park City that helped distribute the drug throughout the northern part of the state.
Prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against the two men Monday in U.S. District Court, alleging possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, among other crimes. The woman faces potential state charges of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and child endangerment, according to a Park City Police Department news release.
In a news conference Wednesday morning, officers described how the Davis Metro Narcotics Strike Force received information last August about the meth operation and relayed that information to Park City police. The department had noticed an uptick in violent crime and burglaries tied to drug abuse since the beginning of summer, said Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter.
The police teamed up with the narcotics strike force, the Summit County Sheriff's Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration to crack the case.
"We don't want this poison in our community," said Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds. He described how this level of interagency cooperation is becoming status quo to combat the drug trade. "Criminals don't understand jurisdictional boundaries. [They] don't follow jurisdictional boundaries."
Law enforcement has the sophistication required to "take out some very high-level people," Edmunds said.
On Aug. 30 and Sept. 24, U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart authorized interception of wire and telephone conversations between the two men. On Sept. 25, law enforcement say they intercepted a message between the men about a meth sale to a customer. Later that day, agents saw one of the men meet with a woman whom they stopped for a traffic violation, discovering about a pound of meth in her vehicle, according to the criminal complaint filed against the two men.
Later that week, agents intercepted another message indicating one of the men was sending a woman on a bus to bring more meth to the other man, according to the complaint. Agents found the bus and seized a suitcase with two pounds of meth inside, the complaint adds.
On Saturday, agents intercepted another communication between the men indicating one of them had traveled to Utah with enough meth to supply a customer, the complaint said. Agents obtained a search warrant for a hotel room the man was staying in and uncovered a pound of meth hidden in a child's diaper bag, according to the complaint.
In all, officers seized more than 17 pounds of meth, almost $17,000 in cash and an SUV, the release adds. The 17 pounds has a street value of about $141,000, Carpenter said.
If convicted, the men face no less than 10 years in federal prison, as well as a $10 million fine. If the woman is convicted, she could face up to five years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine for the child endangerment charge, and up to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine for the drug charge.
The meth would come from Mexico into the U.S. through California, then make its way to Park City, where it would be distributed throughout northern Utah, Carpenter said.
At least four pounds of the meth had been packaged in plastic with grease, which helps hide the smell of the product from drug-sniffing dogs, explained Sgt. Brady Fitzpatrick of the Davis Metro Narcotics Strike Force.
Law enforcement anticipates making more arrests as the investigation continues.