Local federal law enforcement agencies target distribution of bath salts in Utah

Local and state law enforcement agencies on Tuesday announced the seizure of 40 kilograms of bath salts and the arrest of 25 people for drug-related offenses during 2022. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — State and federal law enforcement agencies in Utah thwarted the drug trafficking organizations that distributed bath salts last year.

On Tuesday, police chiefs from several cities and the Salt Lake County Sheriff sat down with local chiefs of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Salt Lake City Police Department’s Division of Homeland Security to discuss their success in dismantling organizations that sell bath salts sell throughout Utah.

More than 100 pounds of bath salts — or synthetic meth — were seized last year, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said. In addition, 25 people were arrested during what Brown called a “significant investigation” that included seizures of $6 million in residential and commercial property, cash and $2.5 million in assets , 21 vehicles, $300,000 worth of jewelry and another $300,000 worth of designer handbags.

Brown called the drug trafficking organizations operating today “highly organised, sophisticated and determined”.

“Nowadays drug trafficking organizations are highly qualified. They will use any available method to hide their businesses in search of more profit,” he said. “What you see on TV these days is not far from the reality we see.”

Brown and others did not provide details of the 25 arrests, saying they were all part of “an active investigation.”

Dustin Gillespie, DEA’s Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge, noted that while fentanyl is still the primary focus of law enforcement, “Bath salts are affecting Utah more than many other states. I cannot explain why this is so. But we seem to have a very rich distribution of bath salts in the valley and in the state of Utah,” he said.

According to Gillespie, bath salts are primarily manufactured in East Asia and shipped to North America via Europe. A kilogram has an estimated street value of $400,000.

Homeland Security Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Brandon Crane added that several major drug trafficking groups have been dismantled as a result of the investigation. He said investigations began in earnest in 2020 after multiple shipments of bath salts from multiple countries in the Greater Salt Lake area were seized.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and court reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021 having previously reported for Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio for many years.

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