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Drug agents have arrested five people on allegations they took heroin and methamphetamine imported from Mexico and distributed it to dealers in Utah and three other states. About $1.5 million worth of drugs were seized as part of the investigation.
A federal grand jury returned a 26-count indictment linked to an investigation that began last year based on information from a confidential source, according to court documents filed in Salt Lake City's U.S. District Court and made public this week.
Agents obtained a court order authorizing taps on six phones used by Lorenzo Verduzco-Benitez, 27, the alleged ringleader, and a subordinate.
The agents intercepted 1,199 calls that indicated Verduzco-Benitez was receiving large quantities of heroin and methamphetamine from Mexico and then was distributing it to dealers in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Michigan, court documents allege.
Using the confidential source, agents made 13 buys of the drugs, a complaint says.
On Feb. 19, they seized 946 grams, or about 2 pounds, of methamphetamine in a car in Salt Lake City after Verduzco-Benitez allegedly sent a cohort to pick up the drugs shipped from Mexico.
The next day they stopped another vehicle that Verduzco-Benitez allegedly dispatched to Los Angeles to pick up a shipment. Agents seized 1,808 grams or 4 pounds of methamphetamine and about 1,045 grams or 2.3 pounds of heroin, documents say.
Two men who picked up the shipments were indicted, along with one man who allegedly bought some of the drugs for distribution and two women who allegedly helped deposit monies in a bank or wire funds to Mexico.
All six are charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin and five of them are charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Five of them also face a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Verduzco-Benitez is facing 11 additional charges of distribution of methamphetamine or heroin and others face the same type of charges.
Five of the six appeared in federal court on Thursday, with agents unable to locate one of the suspects as of Friday. They pleaded not guilty to the charges and were ordered held in custody.
The six face up to life in prison with a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years on the conspiracy to distribute charge with a potential fine of up to $10 million.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Agency Metro Narcotics Task Force, which includes local and federal agencies.