Meth bust one of biggest in Utah ever, DEA says

Published: Tuesday, May 22 2012 12:11 a.m. MDT

The DEA in Salt Lake City displayed confiscated methamphetamine.

Picasa, Matt Powers

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SALT LAKE CITY — In February, the Drug Enforcement Administration made one of its biggest methamphetamine busts in Utah and promised there was more to come.

Monday, the DEA made good on the promise by announcing the seizure of 57 pounds of meth from one vehicle, calling it the most significant pre-planned meth bust ever in Utah.

Not only was the quantity significant, but the purity of the drugs was also unique. The meth was between 97 percent to 100 percent pure, said Frank Smith, assistant special agent-in-charge for the Rocky Mountain Region of the DEA.

Undercover drug agents arranged to purchase the drugs wholesale for $650,000. The drugs had a retail value, however, of between $4 million and $6 million, Smith said.

The bust capped off a yearlong undercover investigation targeting mainly the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico. Investigators believe the meth was produced in so-called "super labs" in Mexico and smuggled over the border.

The shipment seized Sunday night came from California and all 57 pounds of meth were destined for Utah, Smith said.

Although he wouldn't reveal much about how the bust went down, Smith said investigators received just a one-hour notice that the shipment they had ordered was on its way. Agents were able to identify and stop the suspect's vehicle on the freeway before reaching the meeting point. A search of the vehicle revealed drugs hidden in the ceiling of the truck and rolled up and stuffed in PVC pipe.

Over the past year, investigators have seized 127 pounds of meth, in addition to heroin, nearly a dozen weapons and other assets.

In February, the DEA announced two actions completed simultaneously: seizing 25 pounds of meth from a vehicle on I-15 and a "significant stash" of marijuana and weapons, including assault rifles, from a home in a gated community in Emigration Canyon.

Smith referred questions about how many people would be, or have been, indicted from the yearlong investigation to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He noted, however, that one of the people they were targeting in future indictments was one of the commanders of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico.

Smith estimated that more than 90 percent of all the meth in Utah today comes from super labs in Mexico.

Email: preavy@desnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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