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Drug operation hit nearly every high school in Salt Lake Valley, police say

Drug operation hit nearly every high school in Salt Lake Valley, police say

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WEST JORDAN — Police say his drugs were getting into nearly every high school in Salt Lake County and multiple middle schools.

Now, as the suspected ringleader of the drug trafficking operation prepares for his next court appearance, West Jordan police are still unraveling what they say was an extremely large-scale drug operation that was run like a business — and was making large amounts of money.

But with the money also came a lot of violence.

Ntwydamala Christian Cook is just 19. But police say he was dealing drugs and weapons across Utah and into surrounding states. Blackmarket THC vape cartridges, in particular, were being sold using Snapchat to people in Utah, Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to charging documents.

Those cartridges and other THC products “have been linked to almost every school in the valley either directly from him or those underneath him,” said the West Jordan police detective who headed up the 13-month investigation.

Because the detective is still investigating the case and working undercover, KSL agreed to not name him.

While he can’t get into specific details yet about their investigation, the detective said it’s been the biggest case he’s ever worked on.

“We look under one rock and it takes us in five other directions. The amount of drugs this person has put into the community, it’s literally impacted everywhere. I can put it in almost every high school in the valley and some of the surrounding counties.”

In fact, the detective believes Cook and his group were specifically targeting schools to push their products.

Cook is charged in 3rd District Court with engaging in a continuous criminal enterprise, a first-degree felony; seven counts of drug distribution, a second-degree felony; four counts of purchase or possession of a firearm by a restricted person, three counts of forgery and production of a controlled substance, all third-degree felonies.

Cook would receive drugs from California and had at least five “employees” under him whom he paid to distribute the narcotics, according to charging documents. When police served search warrants on his two residences in September, they reported seizing methamphetamine, LSD, codeine, psychedelic mushrooms, fentanyl, ecstasy, about 1,600 vape cartridges, two AR-15s, two handguns and more than $12,000 in cash.

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The detective said the numbers that have been reported in court documents are “just a glimpse of what was going on.”

“The amounts that were being pushed in were astronomical,” he said.

At least three others, including Cook’s mother, have also been arrested as part of the investigation.

The detective said there was a “ton of money” involved with the operation. Because of that, there has also been violence. And that is what the detective said is most concerning.

The drugs allegedly being pushed by Cook and his group were showing up at aggravated assaults and robberies that police were investigating. Police believe the group can be linked to several violent crimes throughout the valley over the past year, even if Cook wasn’t committing the violent acts directly. The detective said he could not go into detail about which incidents investigators believe can be tied back to the group while the charges are pending.

Jed Kyle Miller, 30, of Tooele, was arrested in October for investigation of money laundering, engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, criminal conspiracy, drug distribution, drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and engaging in a criminal street gang. He confessed to police that he sold “large amounts of THC products” that he purchased from Cook, and was “working with other suspects in the area to distribute these narcotics on a continual basis over at least the past year,” according to a police affidavit.

“Mr. Miller admitted he paid cash for the items and was also fronted the money for a motorcycle which he was paying the primary suspect back in cash,” the affidavit states.

Andrew Trieu Diep, 28, of Salt Lake City, was arrested in early October and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, money laundering, producing or manufacturing a controlled substance, possession of a weapon by a restricted person, drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Diep, identified in court documents as one of Cook’s employees, used the U.S. Postal Service to ship black market vape cartridges, according to a police affidavit.

“Postal inspectors intercepted multiple packages on multiple occasions addressed to Mr. Diep. During the service of search warrants, investigators found the boxes usually contained THC vape cartridges or THC edibles. During one search warrant, postal inspectors estimate they intercepted approximately $120,000 of THC vape cartridges,” the report states.

Postal inspectors estimated that 100 packages were sent to Diep.

Police also believe Diep was receiving large payments, noting that while Diep only held a part-time job, he leased a “high-end” apartment with Cook and owned a 2013 Toyota Tacoma and a Harley Davidson motorcycle, the affidavit says.

Last week, Anthony Studham, 19, was arrested for investigation of money laundering, drug distribution, forgery, marijuana possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving on a denied license.

Studham was using Snapchat to to sell “large amounts of THC cartridges, marijuana and THC edibles,” according to another police affidavit.

After his arrest, Studham “admitted he had no job and had paid over $30,000 in cash for his Mercedes in September. A work history check showed the suspect has not worked since the beginning of 2019,” according to the affidavit.

No formal criminal charges have been filed against Studham, Miller or Diep. As of Monday, police were still trying to determine whether Studham could be directly linked to Cook’s group.

“There are so many different avenues to this investigation,” the detective said. “Every time we arrest somebody, something new seems to unfold.”

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