The Utah County attorney's office has boosted the ante against local drug dealers by increasing efforts to seize property used in the manufacture or sale of narcotics.
Under provisions of the Controlled Substances Act of last July, the county attorney's office has filed a civil action seeking its first forfeiture of a home, County Attorney Steve Killpack said. New provisions allow "seizure and forfeiture of vehicles, money and even buildings and residences used in the manufacture, sale or production of controlled substances," according to an attorney's office press release.The home, located in Pleasant Grove, was the site of what investigators believe to be a major marijuana cultivation operation, which was raided last month following a five-week investigation. When officers entered the home on Jan. 27, they found more than 300 marijuana plants and 20 pounds of dried marijuana.
Sheriff's Sgt. Jim Tracy, who is heading the investigation, said the drug operation was capable of producing more than $250,000 worth of marijuana annually.
Killpack said his office is developing an expanded forfeiture program and will dramatically increase seizures and forfeitures under the new law. The office's investigations division is pursuing forfeiture of the home, which is being purchased by Kent E. Nielsen, one of two men charged in connection with the the raid.
Nielsen and Robert D. Phelps face several charges, including cultivation of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, and tax-stamp violation, all third-degree felonies.
Phelps was bound over to 4th District Court last week on the charges, following a preliminary hearing in American Fork. Phelps was arrested when officers raided the residence, 101 E. Seventh South. Nielsen, however, is still at large.