DPS Partners with Utah U.S. Attorney’s Office on I-80 Criminal Interdiction Effort
From August 9th through August 11th, 2020, the Utah Highway Patrol Criminal Interdiction Team along with Agents from the State Bureau of Investigation conducted an Enforcement project on Interstate 80 in Tooele County.
The objective of the project was to provide a safe and secure environment for motorists on Interstate 80 through high volume traffic enforcement and providing public safety services, while identifying indicators of any crime, threat or hazard to Utah citizens and motorists and legally investigate suspicious circumstances.
The effort was supported by U.S. Attorney John W. Huber who spoke to Troopers and Agents prior to the event kicking off.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office – District of Utah is also moving to federally prosecute one and potentially more of the cases that resulted in 17 felony arrests.
At a press event on August 19th, Utah Highway Patrol Colonel Michael Rapich, DPS Commissioner Jess Anderson and U.S. Attorney John Huber spoke about the interdiction effort.
Colonel Rapich started the press conference noting that the Utah Highway Patrol has had an aggressive and focused interdiction program dating back to the 1980s.
This interdiction operation featured UHP’s interdiction team, which is comprised of UHP Troopers who have advanced training and these operations focus on major drug corridors.
During the operation, Troopers made nearly 300 traffic stops and the stretch of interstate they were covering did not have any crashes, fatal or otherwise.
Following a question from a reporter, Colonel Rapich emphasized the fact that the interdiction efforts were focused on cannabis that “was completely black market, illegitimate and there was no connection to any legal nexus within the state of Utah for this [cannabis] to be here.”
The things that are the focus of UHP’s interdiction efforts have nothing to do with the Utah Medical Cannabis Act and how people can actually legally be in possession of cannabis in the state of Utah.
Commissioner Anderson discussed details of the operation, including the amounts and kinds of drugs that were intercepted.
He noted that DPS is grateful to work closely with US Attorney Huber’s office. “We appreciate the partnership working with DPS in being able to make sure that these crimes are prosecuted at the federal level” and the serious nature of the crimes is being addressed.
Highlighting the project success is the seizure of 556 lbs of unlawful cannabis and two handguns seized from restricted persons from these traffic stops.
A total of 37 lbs of THC edibles and 320 THC vape cartridges were also seized from vehicles.
Commissioner Anderson noted that edibles and THC vape cartridges are types of THC products that are targeted and abused by our local youth.
U.S. Attorney John Huber discussed how the interdiction operation was part of the Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, which is federally funded through the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
While the majority of the cannabis is traveling through Utah, some of it is also traveling to Utah and the high THC concentration of today’s cannabis and the products that are further concentrated from there – to edibles and vape cartridges mean that “this is dangerous stuff.”
US Attorney Huber highlighted two stops that his office is pursuing prosecution of the parties involved.
One occurred right before the I-80 interdiction operation and involved “one of those happenstance stops that our professionals make on our behalf every day.”
An employee at the port of entry at Wendover noticed something amiss with a semi-truck and called for a Trooper to investigate. A probable cause search of the vehicle yielded 341 pounds of raw marijuana, 1200 THC vape cartridges, 150 THC chocolate bars, and 126 packages of other edibles.
“This is a semi-truck full of drugs,” said US Attorney Huber, “that when stacked together compares in size to a Trooper’s cruiser.” (Photos below.)
Another case US Attorney Huber’s office will be pursuing involved a BMW being towed by a white truck. Following a traffic stop for speeding and a lack of license plates on both the vehicle and trailer, a search yielded 213 pounds of raw marijuana, 4 pounds of THC wax, and 300 THC vape cartridges.
Based on these cases and the results from the three day interdiction operation, US Attorney Huber said that “We see a constant flow. This is a snapshot: the proverbial tip of an iceberg when we intercept these loads in a three-day period.”