Illegal aliens were pushing heroin in Salt Lake City and sending the money back to Mexico
The Utah County Major Crimes Task Force exists to promote collaboration between local, state, and federal agencies to dismantle drug trafficking organizations operating in the Utah County area. The Task Force emphasizes heroin trafficking, which it describe as an epidemic in the area. It also targets methamphetamine distributors and clandestine labs, mid to street-level drug traffickers, illegal distributors of opiate based prescription pills, and street gangs involved in drug pushing and violent crimes.
Heroin distribution ring in Salt Lake County broken up
Detectives with the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force have arrested four illegal aliens residing in Salt Lake County. An investigation into heroin distribution in the region had pointed authorities in their direction.
According to the affidavit of probable cause filed in support of the arrests, detectives learned that a group of men residing in Salt Lake County were in the possession of several pounds of heroin from Mexico, and were intending to distribute the drugs in Utah and Salt Lake counties.
Over the course of the investigation, detectives employed confidential sources to make several heroin purchases from the group. In April, the Fourth District Court granted law enforcement agencies authorization to intercept wire and electronic communications.
Throughout May and June, detectives intercepted thousands of electronic communications between group members, and observed hundreds, possibly even thousands, of drug sales being made daily to dozens of customers across the state, according to court documents seen by the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah.
The men were in Utah for the sole purpose of selling Mexican heroin and sending home the proceeds
Using information acquired from the intercepted communications, detectives identified a clear organizational structure within the group. One man who acted as the manager has since been identified and arrested.
Detectives ascertained that drug trafficking organization members were laundering money earned through the heroin sales, in an effort to hide the source of the income. The money laundering was done with the intention of sending the drug revenues back to organization members in Mexico.
According to the probable cause affidavit, authorities discovered that one specific residence in Salt Lake City was allegedly used to store, package and prepare large quantities of narcotics. This location was determined to be the primary residence for group members over the past several months.
Detectives observed well over 10 drug transactions, by conducting physical surveillance and GPS monitoring, via cellular phone data. Detectives additionally observed more than 10 money exchanges that were made in an attempt to launder drug transaction proceeds.
On Wednesday, a judge in Utah's Third Judicial District granted detectives a search warrant for the Salt Lake City residence. While executing the search warrant, authorities discovered large quantities of heroin and cocaine, in both packaged and pre-packaged states.
Some of the substances were found in a bedroom closet, and others were discovered within a furnace room wall, behind the insulation. In total, authorities discovered over a pound of cocaine and nearly an ounce of heroin, according to arrest documents.
Having obtained a search warrant for a black Hyundai Sonata with temporary registration that was known to belong to the organization’s alleged manager, detectives found an additional eight pounds of heroin located in the vehicle's trunk.
Two of the arrested men were identified as “runners”, meaning they were day-to-day distributors responsible for delivering the heroin to customers. They were also responsible for keeping other runners within the organization stocked with supplies.
The runners were also responsible for collecting drug sale proceeds from street pushers and for bringing the money back to other members of the organization, so that it would eventually make its way back into the hands of the manager, according to arrest documents.
The man identified as the manager was responsible for the residence used by the organization to store, package and prepare large quantities of narcotics, and was responsible for handling the money made from drug transactions.
The manager also was responsible for the organization's ‘logistical needs’, including vehicle registration and insurance.
According to arrest documents seen by the Daily Herald, 34-year-old Josue Morales-Garcia of West Jordan, 22-year-old Oscar Sanchez-Rodriguez of West Jordan, 29-year-old Edwin Olvera-Garcia, and 24-year-old Jose Manuel Ortega-Guzman of Salt Lake City were arrested and taken into custody on charges of second-degree felony money laundering and second-degree felony possession with intent to distribute.
Each of the four men arrested on Wednesday were identified by U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agents as having entered the U.S. illegally, and authorities handed custody of the defendants over to ICE.