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Local, federal law enforcers target bath salt distribution in Utah

Local and federal law enforcers on Tuesday announced the seizure of 40 kilograms of bath salts and the arrests of 25 people in drug-related crimes throughout 2022.

Local and federal law enforcers on Tuesday announced the seizure of 40 kilograms of bath salts and the arrests of 25 people in drug-related crimes throughout 2022. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — State and federal law enforcers in Utah made a dent in drug trafficking organizations distributing bath salts last year.

On Tuesday, police chiefs from several cities and the Salt Lake County sheriff stood with the local heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Division of Homeland Security at the Salt Lake City Police Department to talk about their success in dismantling organizations selling bath salts throughout Utah.

More than 40 kilograms of bath salts — or synthetic meth — was seized last year, said Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown. In addition, 25 people were arrested during what Brown called a "significant investigation," which also included the seizure of $6 million in residential and business properties, $2.5 million in cash and assets, 21 vehicles, $300,000 in jewelry and another $300,000 in designer handbags.

Brown called the drug trafficking organizations operating today "highly organized, sophisticated and determined."

"Today, drug trafficking organizations are skilled, highly skilled. They will use all available methods to hide their enterprises in search of more profit," he said. "What you see on TV these days is not far off from the reality we see."

Brown and others did not release details about the 25 arrests, citing they are all part of "active investigations."

DEA Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Dustin Gillespie noted that while fentanyl is still the main focus for law enforcers, "Bath salts affect Utah more so than a lot of other states. Why that is, I can't explain. But we seem to have a very prolific distribution of bath salts in the valley and the state of Utah," he said.

Gillespie said bath salts are mainly produced in east Asia and shipped to North America through Europe. A kilogram has an estimated street value of $400,000.

Homeland Security Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Brandon Crane added that because of the investigation, several large drug trafficking groups have been dismantled. He said the investigation got started in earnest in 2020 after several shipments of bath salts from multiple countries were seized around the Greater Salt Lake area.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.

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