DEA forecasts a record-breaking year for fentanyl seizures in Utah

By: Kyle Dunphy, Utah News Dispatch

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – On the heels of a massive bust, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, expects the number of fentanyl pills seized in Utah this year to be record-breaking.

In less than two weeks this June, the DEA’s Rocky Mountain Field Division seized about 170,000 fentanyl pills in the Beehive State, the agency said in a news release. That’s about one quarter of what was seized in all of 2023, which at 664,000 pills was the most fentanyl confiscated in Utah by the DEA in one year, ever.

The division, which covers Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, seized about 3.4 million fentanyl pills in 2023, which is also a record, according to the DEA.

The influx of pills is evidence of Mexican criminal groups in Utah, said Jonathan Pullen, the special agent in charge of the Rocky Mountain Field Division.

“The drug cartels primarily operating in Mexico are not slowing down production and distribution of this deadly poison,” Pullen said in a statement. “Fentanyl pills and powder are out there, and the cartels targeting Utah do not care if you and the family are in summer vacation mode. DEA continues to urge you to discuss the lethal nature of fentanyl with family, friends and within your community.”

The investigations into these seizures are ongoing, the DEA said, and additional details and court records are not currently available.

In a warrant filed in Utah’s 4th District Court this past March, agents describe an unnamed drug trafficking group from Sinaloa, Mexico, which has been under investigation since 2016 for its operations along the Wasatch Front.

“The investigation has resulted in the arrest of dozens of (drug trafficking organization) members, the seizure of hundreds of pounds of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine and the seizure of over $2 million in cash and assets,” the warrant reads.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control show that about 105,000 Americans died from a drug overdose last year — according to the DEA, about 70% of those deaths involved fentanyl.

“The recent seizures totaling 170,000 fentanyl pills in Utah means more than likely, lives have been saved – from St. George to Logan, Moab to Wendover – and across the state,” said Dustin Gillespie, the special agent in charge of the Salt Lake City DEA office.

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