Salt Lake City-area businesses, homes seized in “substantial” federal investigation into bath salts

Authorities also seized over $2.5 million in cash and other assets during the investigation, which began in 2020.

(Jordan Miller | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dustin Gillespie, left, Deputy Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Trina Higgins, U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah, center, and SLCPD Chief Mike Brown, right, speak during a news conference at the Public Security Building on a federal investigation into bath salts on January 24, 2023.

Authorities throughout the Salt Lake Valley have seized over $6 million worth of property, including some local businesses, as part of a year-long federal investigation into bath salts, officials announced Tuesday.

Homeland Security officials began investigating bath salts trade into the Salt Lake City area in 2020, said Brandon Crane, deputy special agent in charge of investigations by Utah’s Homeland Security Agency.

The powdery, mealy, synthetic stimulant mimics the effects of methamphetamine. Shipments of the drug poured into various locations in the Salt Lake Valley from countries around the world, such as China and Mexico, the first investigation showed.

Homeland Security soon worked with the Drug Enforcement Agency’s underground task force, which includes officials from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, to take down “several” transnational drug trafficking groups operating in the Salt Lake area, Crane said.

According to DEA agent Dustin Gillespie, 500 grams of the drug — relatively speaking, an amount equivalent to about 4 cups of baking flour — has a street value of about $200,000. Since the investigation began in 2020, the task force has seized over $400,000 in vehicles, $300,000 in jewelry and $300,000 in designer handbags related to the case.

Officials didn’t provide the addresses of the millions of properties seized during the investigation, but said they were homes and licensed businesses across the valley – all purchased with money raised from the sale of bath salts, Gillespie said .

“Those involved in this investigation thought they could evade responsibility and lead lavish lifestyles,” said SLCPD Police Commissioner Mike Brown, noting there were 25 arrests in the case.

None of those arrested were identified Tuesday.

“This is a significant investigation that found bath salt traders and bath salt distribution to be widespread throughout the Salt Lake Valley,” Brown continued, “and adversely affecting all of our local communities.”

Officials said Tuesday they weren’t sure why Utah appears to have seen a “very prolific” resurgence in bath salts while other parts of the country remain focused on the proliferation of fentanyl and other drugs.

“The amount of cash, homes, firearms and cars that we’ve seized — we’re making a dent in these organizations,” said Trina Higgins, US Attorney for the District of Utah. “That’s another really important message that we want to convey to the community, which is that we’re going to take the profitability out of this type of activity.” Salt Lake City-area businesses, homes seized in “substantial” federal investigation into bath salts

Justin Scaccy

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