Eight people have been charged over the past three months in connection with a major cocaine distribution ring in the Salt Lake Valley.

SALT LAKE CITY — Three people were arrested this week and charged with participating in an extensive cocaine and crack distribution ring in Salt Lake City.

Five others have previously been charged in connection with the operation.

The man believed to be orchestrating the ring was selling cocaine to more than 100 "customers" in the Salt Lake Valley, earning between $1,000 and $2,000 a day, according to prosecutors. Much of his money was shipped to the suspect's mother in Mexico who was using it to make land acquisitions, according to charging documents.

Guillermo Delfin-Salto was charged in 3rd District Court in March with engaging in a drug enterprise, a first-degree felony; conspiracy to engage in a drug criminal enterprise, engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, second-degree felonies; and drug distribution, a class B misdemeanor.

But assistant attorney general Jake Taylor said Delfin-Salto rarely, if ever, touched the drugs or the money. He is accused of essentially quarterbacking drug deals from the privacy of his house.

"He pretty much barricaded himself," Taylor said. "He orchestrated everything by phone."

But investigators, who say Delfin-Salto had been on their radar for about a year, used state-approved wiretaps to gain information. From Nov. 6 to Dec. 6, 2012, investigators intercepted 3,210 incriminating calls from about 210 people, according to court documents.

Those wiretaps led to search warrants being executed in November and December and the seizure of more than 4 kilograms of cocaine, 2 pounds of methamphetamine, 3 ounces of heroin and more than $60,0000 cash, according to court documents.

"He's a big fish to us," Taylor said.

Delfin-Salto, who has been convicted twice of drug distribution and deported once, tried to stay a step ahead of police by using decoys to see if officers were following him, according to court documents.

He fled to California but was arrested during a traffic stop near San Bernardino.

A total of eight people have been charged in connection with the operation. As of Friday, seven were in custody. Investigators believe Delfin-Salto was the head man in the group and the others were minor players who carried out his deals.

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Charges of conspiracy to engage in a drug criminal enterprise, a first-degree felony; and second-degree felony charges of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, drug distribution and money laundering were filed in 3rd District Court this week against Maria Delsocorro Lup Valdez, 26, Juana Rodriguez, 44, and Augustin Solano, 46.

Taylor said after the state charges are taken care of in court, Delfin-Salto could face federal charges for aggravated re-entry into the country. If convicted on the state charges, they carry a minimum-mandatory of seven years in prison.

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