SPRINGVILLE — Utah Highway Patrol troopers made what is believed to be the biggest methamphetamine bust in state history Monday.
Troopers seized more than 230 pounds of meth after a traffic stop near Springville with an estimated wholesale value of $1.5 million and a street value of as much as 10 times that much.
About 3 p.m. Monday, investigators received a tip about a Ford F-150 that was possibly traveling through the area, said State Bureau of Investigations Capt. Tyler Kotter. A trooper spotted the vehicle and pulled it over when the driver made a signal violation while changing lanes, he said.
There were three people inside the vehicle.
"The trooper observed them to be very nervous and had inconsistent stories," Kotter said.
A police K-9 was called to the scene and searched the truck. In the bed of the pickup, investigators found boxes and suitcases filled with meth, he said, in addition to steroids and $66,000 in cash.
"I've never heard of a larger load of methamphetamine in the state's history," he said.
Brennan Carter Tutt, 24, of Airdrie, Alberta, Canada; Kyle Carlson Taylor, 19, of Calgary, Canada; and Caicedo Ramirez Santiago, 20, of Calgary, Canada, were arrested for investigation of drug distribution. Late Tuesday afternoon, all three were charged in U.S. District Court with meth possession with intent to distribute.
Taylor was the driver of the vehicle, the federal complaint states. The duffel bag with the money belonged to Tutt, according to prosecutors, although he denied having knowledge of the money.
"Each of the vehicle occupants denied their own knowledge of the methamphetamine, but state that they believed that others in the vehicle knew about the narcotics," the charging documents state.
The three were scheduled to make initial appearances in federal court on Wednesday.
The street value of the massive drug bust wasn't completely clear on Tuesday.
Several law enforcement sources the Deseret News talked to about methamphetamine pricing estimated that the wholesale value of meth is currently between $400 and $800 per ounce, making the 236 pounds that was seized worth between $1.5 million and $3 million. But once the meth is cut up and sold at the street level, it can generate, on average, five times that much, according to several law enforcers.
That would make the street value of Monday's bust between $7.5 million and $15 million.
DRUG BUST: whole value of the 236 pounds of meth seized is approx. $1.5 mil. pic.twitter.com/lTo3zyL6ob— Utah Public Safety (@UtahDPS) October 11, 2016
But law enforcers also said calculating a street value for methamphetamine is difficult because there are many variables, including where the meth comes from and the purity of the drug being sold, or how much the drug is "cut" with a harmless substance like baking soda to spread the supply out.
The investigation into where the drugs came from and where the three were going with the drugs was still ongoing Tuesday, according to Kotter. He described the three men as being uncooperative.
Monday's bust comes on the heels of a drug bust in August by the Unified Police Department, which at the time was believed to be the largest in state history. Detectives pulled over a Nissan Altima on I-15 near 8500 South and seized 68 pounds of methamphetamine in a suitcase in the trunk, with an estimated street value of at least $2 million.
Other large busts in the state include:
- On May 20, 2012, 56 pounds of methamphetamine was seized from a 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser. One man was arrested and later convicted in federal court.
- In 2013, 40 pounds of meth of meth was intercepted by authorities during a suspected handoff in a parking lot at 1300 South and 300 West. Three men were arrested.
- On Aug. 7, 2012, 22 pounds of meth linked to the Sinaloa drug cartel was seized by the Drug Enforcement Agency. One man was charged federally.
- In February 2007, 24 pounds of meth was seized in a traffic stop on I-70 near Salina. Two men were arrested.