Comments Off on 24 women and men indicted in major Methamphetamine distribution ring targeting Salt Lake County

SALT LAKE CITY — Two separate drug investigations that eventually became one have culminated in the federal indictments of 24 people and the seizure of 41 pounds of meth.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office joined other local, state and federal agencies on Friday — including several police chiefs from across Salt Lake County — to announce the unsealing of a 13-count indictment against members of a drug trafficking organization.

U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber called it “an organized crime indictment against 24 individuals involved in a common conspiracy to obtain large loads of dangerous drugs and distribute them directly to the streets of Salt Lake County through a complicated network.”

Huber said the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration had each been conducting their own separate drug trafficking investigations for several weeks when they discovered each organization was using the same supplier out of southern California. At that point, the two organizations combined forces.

The accused ringleader, Raul Enrique Lizarraga Lopez, who goes by the moniker “Maestro” from Los Angeles, was charged with conspiracy to distribute meth. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and up to life.

The 12 others who are indicted are all from the Salt Lake County area, according to court records.

Huber said the drug organization was set up like a business that included security, counter-surveillance, secret codes, firearms, large amounts of cash, and each person having a distinct role within the group. Authorities seized 17 firearms in addition to the drugs.

But Huber said a partnership with local, state and federal agencies that used “every tool under the law” resulted in the charges. Some of those tools included wiretaps and intercepting phone conversations.

The meth is believed to have originated in Mexico before it was shipped to Southern California and eventually to Utah, according to authorities. The group specifically distributed in Salt Lake County, according to investigators.

Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown said the bust would have an impact. But it won’t be long before someone else fills that void, he said. The fact that all 41 pounds of seized methamphetamine was headed to Salt Lake County is another example of the appetite the public has for drugs, and why treatment is needed to help fight the problem.

What we have are bandages and Band-Aids. But the overall problem is a much deeper societal issue.

–John Huber, U.S. Attorney for Utah

Brian Besser, the DEA resident agent-in-charge in Utah, agreed that one large bust will not eradicate the drug problem.

“I would say we probably swung the bat as hard as we can here and reached the optimum result,” he said.

But Besser compared it to a game of Whack-a-Mole — when one problem is taken care of, another pops up. Drug trafficking is big business, but with drugs comes violence and other problems, Besser noted, while calling drug trafficking the “hub of the crime wheel.”

“Drugs and gangs go hand-in-hand, and one facilitates the other,” he said. “I have yet to see gang members or drug dealers selling cookies or magazines on the street corner (to facilitate their interests).

“(It’s a) greed-driven and profit-driven enterprise which holds very little regard for the end user,” he said.

Huber said Friday there has been a rise in crime in Utah, including a 13 percent increase in violent crime.

“Be wise in your decisions, because you’re next,” he said in a warning to criminals.

The others arrested include:

  • Silvio McKenzie-Ganza, 35, of Salt Lake City;
  • Cesar Gutierrez, 37, of Magna;
  • Melissa Delgado, 21, of Murray;
  • Ciro Santamaria-Zepeda, 35, of Salt Lake City;
  • Makasini Lomu, 50, of West Valley City;
  • Siosifina Ositamani, 41, of Salt Lake City;
  • Sompheth Thaodara, 48, of West Valley City;
  • Michael Shane Tisdale, 54, of West Valley City;
  • David Tyson Madden, 40, of Salt Lake City;
  • Man Tat Le, 42, of West Valley City;
  • Gary Bronson Dean, 32, of Salt Lake City;
  • Timote Fangupo, 36, of West Jordan;
  • Mario Cerna, 34, of West Valley City;
  • Morgan Harris, 58, of Murray;
  • Brandon Callaway, 29, of Salt Lake City;
  • Cerina Gutierrez, 45, of Salt Lake City;
  • Jon Martinez, 46, of Salt Lake City;
  • Greg Montoya, 43, of Salt Lake City;
  • Jake Duran, 25, of Salt Lake City;
  • Jeremy Najera, 33, of Salt Lake City;
  • Justin Dahlquist, 26, of Salt Lake City;
  • Linda Sosa, 39, of Kearns;
  • Steven Trujillo, 24, of Tooele.


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