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Mark Wetzel, KSL TV, File

Second weekend drug bust resulted in seizure of $1M worth of meth, authorities say

By Carter Williams, KSL.com | Posted - Jan 15th, 2019 @ 7:01pm



PLEASANT GROVE — Another $1 million worth of methamphetamine was seized during a traffic stop in Pleasant Grove Saturday in a separate case from one where $850,000 worth of drugs were seized during a traffic stop in Spanish Fork, authorities said Tuesday.

"In one day, you had nearly $2 million worth of drugs in street value that were removed from the street," Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon said. "That's a couple hundred thousand doses of drugs."

Lt. Dennis Harris with the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force said two people were arrested after 23 pounds of methamphetamine were found in the vehicle they were in. He did not disclose the names of those arrested in the case for the protection of the police investigation.

The two were arrested in Pleasant Grove after Orem police initiated a traffic stop. The drugs were found in the vehicle, Harris said.

“Because of a few things that were taking place during the traffic stop, Utah County Major Crimes Task Force was called out to assist on it,” he said.

The two arrested were not believed to be connected to another arrest in Utah County on Saturday, where Jose Olegario Lopez, 44, of Salt Lake City, was jailed for investigation of his alleged involvement in of a drug distribution investigation, Cannon added. More than 16 pounds of methamphetamine and 2 pounds of cocaine worth more than $850,000 total were seized during that traffic stop.

Authorities allege Lopez was living in the U.S. illegally and say he violated re-entry eight times previously. Harris said he believed those arrested in Pleasant Grove were U.S. citizens.

The close to 40 pounds of methamphetamine seized Saturday was just the latest drug busts made by authorities in Utah. Harris added that he believes there’s still plenty more drugs being circulated throughout the state.

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“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “There’s a lot of more being dropped off in the state of Utah. … It might be a stopping point in many cases.”

In November 2018, U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber announced authorities removed hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine, fentanyl and crack cocaine, as well as seized millions of dollars. More than 30 people were charged in three separate cases there.

Those arrested were from the U.S., Mexico and Honduras.

In March 2018, five Canadians were arrested as a result of a drug ring investigation that began after a 230-pound methamphetamine bust in Springville in 2016. The drug bust was eventually credited with uncovering an unknown Canadian drug cartel.

In 2017, Utah Highway Patrol officials warned of a rise in methamphetamine busts. UHP Sgt. Steve Salas said then that it was believed a lot of the intercepted drugs were heading to the eastern part of the U.S.

As for the spike in large-scale drug busts in Utah, Harris blames the state laws for “becoming very lax,” resulting in a high number of drugs pedaled into and through Utah.

“Utah has pretty much become the crossroads of the west, in terms of distribution of hardcore drugs from the cartels out of Mexico,” he said. “They have set up shop in Utah and we are extremely concerned about it.”

Carter Williams

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