SOUTH JORDAN — Four people were arrested and multiple search warrants were served in several states Friday as agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration attempted to dismantle a counterfeit pill operation based in Utah.
Brian Besser, assistant special agent in charge of the DEA in Utah, said Friday's arrests marked the culmination of a yearlong investigation into a counterfeit tableting operation suspected of producing fake oxycodone and Xanax pills. The group had been operating in the Greater Salt Lake Valley and other undisclosed states for "quite some time," he said.
The group is also suspected of cultivating high-grade marijuana, according to Besser.
The DEA served search warrants in the Daybreak area of South Jordan, in West Jordan and out of state on Friday, he said. South Jordan police, West Jordan police, Homeland Security agents, the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. marshals assisted. Two arrests were made in Utah and two out of state.
In addition, cash, some drugs and firearms were seized, Besser said.
He called it a "signficant" operation, similar to the 2016 bust of Aaron Shamo in Cottonwood Heights, which at the time was considered one of the largest pill pressing operations in the nation. Whether Friday's bust will end up being as big won't be known until agents can retrace the organization's steps.
"We seized hundreds of thousands of pills that night (in 2016), but that wasn't necessarily indicative of how he manufactured over a period of 12 to 15 months. And that's the same thing we're trying to do now. The investigators are actively trying to find out how many pills were they responsible for. Where were the pills going? What is the magnitude of the operation? Who are the associates? Where were the proceeds going? Who's involved in other states?" Besser said.
But like the Shamo operation, he said the group is suspected of making fake pain pills laced with Fentanyl, which is typical for most pill pressing operations today.Comment on this story
"They're manufacturing these things to make them look like authentic pharmaceutical grade tablets. They even go to measures to color them the right color, stamp them to look like they're oxycodone 30 mg tablets, when, in fact, they're actually made with garbage binders and Fentanyl," he said.
Names of those arrested Friday weren't immediately released. Besser said more arrests were possible.
In South Jordan, he said the home that was searched was a primary resident of the suspect, and not a stash house.
"That's the part that concerns DEA, these individuals who are perpetrating these types of crimes on a neighborhood could be right next door," he said.
Besser expected federal charges to be screened in the coming weeks and more information to be released.