SALT LAKE CITY — A six-month investigation has resulted in what law enforcement officers are calling the largest heroin seizure in Utah history.
"This is nothing short of historic," Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said at a press conference announcing the bust on Thursday.
An estimated 90 pounds of "high grade" heroin with an estimated street value of between $6 million to $10 million was seized in Utah and Arizona as a result of the investigation. In addition, 17 people had been arrested as of Thursday, and more than $500,000 in cash and 22 cars seized.
It is believed the groups had been, "laundering millions of dollars a year in proceeds associated with heroin distribution," said Lt. Phil Murphy with the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force. Law enforcement officers classified those arrested as "mid-to-upper level" figures in a major drug trafficking operation.
The investigation was conducted by the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force in conjunction with Unified police, Salt Lake City police, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office.
Arrest and search warrants were served this week in Salt Lake and Utah counties at residences and businesses. Thirteen arrests were made in Utah and about 20 pounds of heroin seized.
Though investigators decline to get into many details Thursday, they said the heroin was linked to a Mexican drug cartel. The drugs would first go to Phoenix, where dealers would forward the drugs to distribution hubs throughout the West, including Utah, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon.
Murphy called the bust "very rewarding," particularly in light of the high amount of heroin-related deaths seen in Utah each year.
"Many families have been touched by the addiction problem," he said. "Heroin is widely available and targeting a lot of people. We're doing everything we can to follow though on investigations."
The heroin that was seized could have been sold on the street as hundreds of thousands of doses, according to law enforcers.
The investigation was still on-going, police said Thursday, and additional arrests were possible.