Utah police bust dealers connected to Mexican drug cartel

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RIVERTON -- A drug bust overnight has led to six arrests and the disruption of a major drug supplier in the Salt Lake Valley. Unified Police say the group is connected to a Mexican drug cartel.

Unified police make early-morning bust

A Unified police SWAT team moved in on a house in Riverton around 2:30 Thursday morning.

These cartels are not fools. They're going to use locations that historically we have not been aware of or are interested in.

–Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder

It's a fairly new subdivision, a nice neighborhood. Officers say that's why the dealers chose to operate there.

Police found just over 4 pounds of methamphetamine, 4 pounds of heroin and a pound of cocaine stashed and hidden in the walls of a townhome near 3400 West and Mount Cortina Way, which is about 13800 South.

Officers say they arrested six Mexican nationals who are connected to the Zetas Cartel. Some were in the house, others were arrested at a traffic stop.

Investigators have been on the case for two months. They say the operation moved about 30 pounds of heroin per week.

A new method of drug dealing

Neighbors say it makes sense why they'd operate out of a house in suburbia.

"It's a little disconcerting, but from everyone I've talked to it sounds like that's kind of why they picked this area," said neighbor Andrew Fisher. "They thought it would maybe not raise as much suspicion."

"These cartels are not fools," said Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder. "They're going to use locations that historically we have not been aware of or are interested in. This particular circumstance was in the city of Riverton, in a standard suburban neighborhood."

The residence was only used to stash the drugs. Then they used a network of people to deliver the drugs in a system known as "Dial-A-Doper."

Winder described the system. "They're using very inexpensive vehicles, people that have been threatened to drive those vehicles. They're given a cell phone and a limited amount of narcotics and some cash. People call up these cell phone numbers, meet these dealers they deliver the -- almost like a pizza delivery," he said.

Officers also found guns, cash, and seized three cars. The dealers actually altered the frame of one car to hide the drugs in certain compartments.

Detectives find 'Blue Meth'

Detectives also discovered a form of methamphetamine that's new, called Blue Meth.
Detectives also discovered a form of methamphetamine that's new, called Blue Meth.

Detectives also discovered a form of meth that's new called Blue Meth. The method used to make the pure form is popularized on the TV show "Breaking Bad."

"They are able to create the blue methamphetamine in about 30 minutes in very small environments as opposed to doing much larger cooks that take between three and 12 hours," Winder said. "Also, the potency of this -- the bluer the methamphetamine the more purity."

Dealers trying to stay ahead of police

This bust is just another example of how drug cartels are trying to stay one step ahead of the police. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sees it across the country.

"It is not unusual for someone to have a small lab in their vehicle that is mobile, or in a hotel room so it is away from their home," said DEA spokeswoman Sue Thomas.

But the DEA points out the majority of the methamphetamine is still being smuggled into the United States; and with so much money on the line, the drugs bring with them danger and often violence.

"It's new methods trafficking meth from border areas and from Mexico, which is why we are encountering more of a meth problem here," Thomas says.

Collectively, all of the drugs were worth close to about $200,000 on the street.

Police are still looking for more suspects whom they say are armed and dangerous.


Story compiled with contributions from Nicole Gonzales and Sam Penrod/a>.


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