WEST JORDAN — Police say an American Fork man was running a large drug distribution ring in Salt Lake County and Utah County targeting juveniles to both buy and deliver his product.
Juan Cruz Castruita-Lopez, 21, of American Fork, who goes by the moniker "Polo," was charged in December in 4th District Court with arranging to distribute drugs, a third-degree felony; drug distribution, a third-degree felony; and possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.
Although charges were filed in Utah County, the investigation originated in West Jordan. Police there announced Friday that investigators had seized $57,000 in cash and about 1,200 THC cartridges with a street value of $30,000.
"This bust likely prevented a huge amount of THC possibly hitting our schools to be sold to juveniles," West Jordan police stated.
According to court documents, Castruita-Lopez ran "a local large-scale drug trafficking group called The Polo Ghetto Boyz."
West Jordan Police Sgt J.C. Holt said Castruita-Lopez was allegedly using Snapchat to recruit juveniles to both purchase and deliver THC cartridges for him. The THC cartridges were used in vape pens, mainly by juveniles, he said.
Castruita-Lopez was using an apartment in American Fork as a "stash house," Holt said, to store his drug supply.
He "was offering to sell thousands of THC vapor cartridges and other THC products. Officers watched (Castruita-Lopez took) a large duffel bag full of THC products from his home in American Fork," according to charging documents.
According to a report from Adult Probation and Parole, in addition to following Castruita-Lopez's car around town, detectives also began following him on Snapchat.
"Castruita has posted multiple videos displaying the THC products and stating they are for sale," according to the report.
On Dec. 13, Castruita-Lopez, who was on felony probation, was stopped by AP&P agents and searched.
"Officers and AP&P found the large duffel bag full of hundreds of THC products including THC vapor cartridges. On the same day, officers executed a search warrant of the defendant's home and found thousands of THC vapor cartridges. Officers also found an estimated $57,683 in United States currency," the charges state.
Castruita-Lopez has a lengthy criminal history. In July, he was charged with aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping for the alleged brutal beating of a 16-year-old boy he accused of stealing drugs from him. The victim was tied naked to a camping chair, beaten in the face "with the buttstock of an AR-style .22-caliber rifle," the barrel of the gun was put in his mouth and motor oil was poured over his head, according to the charges. The victim has had three surgeries to try and reattach a retina in his eye.1 comment on this story
The AP&P report states that Castruita-Lopez's partner in the drug trafficking group was Euziel De La Torre, 20, of West Jordan. In addition to also being charged in connection with the beating of the teen boy, De La Torre was charged in August with murder and six counts of discharge of a firearm for the July 10 drive-by shooting of 48-year-old Jawnie Wey.
Wey, who was not the intended target, was on a couch in a home at 4929 S. 1950 West when she was shot in the head, according to charging documents. She died nine days later.
To get their drug supply, Castruita-Lopez and De La Torre "made runs to California to pick up large amounts of marijuana," according to the AP&P report.