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Meth bust one of biggest in Utah ever


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SALT LAKE CITY — In February, the Drug Enforcement Administration made one of its biggest methamphetamine busts in Utah and promised there were more to come.

Monday, the DEA made good on the promise by announcing the seizure of 57 pounds of meth from one vehicle, calling it the most significant pre-planned meth bust ever in Utah.

Not only was the quantity significant, but the purity of the drugs was also unique. The meth was between 97- percent to 100-percent pure, said Frank Smith, assistant special agent-in-charge for the Rocky Mountain Region of the DEA.

Undercover drug agents arranged to purchase the drugs wholesale for $650,000. The drugs had a retail value, however, of between $4 million and $6 million, Smith said.

The large bust capped off a year-long undercover investigation targeting mainly the Sinaloa Drug Cartel in Mexico. Investigators believe the meth was produced in so- called "super labs" in Mexico and smuggled over the border.

The shipment seized Sunday night came from California and all 57 pounds of meth were destined for Utah, Smith said.


Over the past year, investigators have seized 127 pounds of meth, in addition to heroin, nearly a dozen weapons and other assets.

Although he wouldn't reveal much about how the bust went down, Smith said investigators received just a one- hour notice that the shipment they had ordered was on its way. Agents were able to identify and stop the suspect's vehicle on the freeway before reaching the meeting point. A search of the vehicle revealed drugs hidden in the ceiling of the truck and rolled up and stuffed in PVC pipe.

Targeting the source

Over the past year, investigators have seized 127 pounds of meth, in addition to heroin, nearly a dozen weapons and other assets.

In February, the DEA announced two actions completed simultaneously: seizing 25 pounds of meth from a vehicle on I-15 and seizing a "significant stash" of marijuana and weapons, including assault rifles, from a home in a gated community in Emigration Canyon.

Smith referred questions about how many people would be, or have been, indicted from the year-long investigation to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He noted, however, that one of the people they were targeting in future indictments was one of the commanders of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico.

Smith estimated that well over 90 percent of all the meth in Utah today comes from super labs in Mexico.

Mega-labs in Utah decreasing

According to the Associated Press, 80 percent of meth busts in recent years made by the DEA have been associated with a new method for creating the drug that doesn't require huge labs and large amounts of toxic chemicals, but small quantities and in spaces as compact as station wagons.


Meth is prevalent, it is still out there. We're seeing it in all neighborhoods. We've got projects from Southern Utah to Northern Utah and every economic and social class you can think of.

–- Shane Woodworth, Crime Scene Cleaners


The method, which has skyrocketed in use in the last few years, is referred to as "one pot" or "shake and bake" on the streets, is essentially a mobile meth lab.

Meth users have been producing their own meth using a few household chemicals, cold pills and a two-liter soda bottle, which they then shake up in their cars.

The small labs still have dangerous affects on the spaces in which they reside. Shane Woodworth, of Crime Scene Cleaners says that he has cleaned a lot more vehicles in the last couple of years than in previous years, and more labs in small businesses.

"They were selling it out of the back of the shop, they were using while they were selling," Woodworth said.

Woodworth says he's seen fewer mega-meth labs in Utah, and the DEA reports they busted only five in Utah last year. But they've been replaced by the Mexican labs.

"They might do different parts of the cooking process in several different locations or they're bringing up a lot of the oils for cooking meth from Mexico and just finishing out the cooking process here," he said.

So while meth manufacturing has dropped locally, use has not.

"Meth is prevalent, it is still out there," Woodworth said. "We're seeing it in all neighborhoods. We've got projects from Southern Utah to Northern Utah and every economic and social class you can think of."

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