by Jared Bray, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
SALT LAKE CITY — Filipino-American Attorney General Sean Reyes announced that his office’s opioid task force has taken down a major drug smuggling operation in Utah.
“The joint operation began over a year ago and takes down one of the largest drug smuggling operations in Utah’s recent past,” he said.
During the operation, law enforcement officers made 35 arrests, seized more than a million dollars and captured dozens of pounds of heroine, cocaine and meth.
Reyes said the people arrested are tied to Mexican and Honduran drug cartels who smuggle and sell drugs in the downtown Salt Lake City area.
He believes his team eliminated an entire network of drug suppliers.
“They’re the ones who are not just street dealers,” he said. “They’re part of a sophisticated criminal organization.”
Although Reyes can’t guarantee a new group won’t try to exploit the same environment, he’s confident that the operation has gotten the attention of other criminals.
“Actually, I know on the street word has gone out that Utah is not a place to sell drugs, like opioids and heroine,” he said. “If you’re gonna do it here in our state, you’re gonna have to work two or three times as hard because we’re coming after you.”
The drug crackdown highlights Utah’s opioid epidemic. According to the state health department, an average of six Utahns die each week from opioid overdose as they become addicted to prescription pain medication.
For that reason, Reyes believes the drug bust was a significant win for Utah citizens.
“If it saves just one life, it’s worth it,” he said. “In this case, I think many lives are saved, just statistically by the amount of drugs we took away.”
But the attorney general says there’s still work to do and plans to put more resources into addressing what he calls a “multifaceted challenge.”