25 indicted in alleged meth distribution ring

Published: Sunday, March 20 2011 5:59 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Federal prosecutors have indicted 25 people allegedly involved in a drug distribution ring operating in Utah.

Twenty were arrested Wednesday night after a grand jury returned indictments charging them with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

The arrests took place in Salt Lake, Utah, Summit and Wasatch counties, as well as California and Idaho. Five of those charged have not been arrested.

Authorities were holding 11 of the suspects on immigration detainers. The rest will have detention hearings next week.

Prosecutors released few details about the operation — such as whether it involved a known drug cartel — but noted that the charges did not include manufacturing meth.

Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney of Utah, said investigators believe the drugs came from Mexico and other places.

Agents from the FBI, Utah County Major Crimes Task Force and Immigration and Customs Enforcement took part in the investigation, which started in November 2009.

FBI spokeswoman Debbie Dujanovic Bertram said the investigation was a "major collaborative effort" between the agencies.

The distribution charge, alleging conspiracy to distribute at least 500 grams of methamphetamine, carries a potential maximum penalty of up to life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.

In a related case, authorities arrested an Orem man who allegedly discussed purchasing narcotics on several intercepted phone calls in February and March.

In one call, the man allegedly told an associate he was "selling the dove in the bag," a term for cocaine.

He was arrested Wednesday during a traffic stop in Utah County along with one of the other suspects and charged with use of a communication facility to facilitate a conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

That charge carries a potential sentence of up to four years in prison.

Email: pkoepp@desnews.com Twitter: pbkdn

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