COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah, Nov. 22, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Officers from the DEA, Unified Police, Cottonwood Heights Police and multiple other law enforcement agencies are on the scene of an alleged pill-manufacturing operation in Cottonwood Heights — one they say is responsible for distributing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of deadly counterfeit pain pills, including fake fentanyl, across the United States.
Brian Besser, District Agent in Charge for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for the District of Utah told reporters Tuesday night that the operation inside the Cottonwood Heights home was massive in scope and that a working “tablet press” had been found inside the Titian Way residence.
One suspect, identified by the DEA as Aaron Shamo, was taken into custody. Several others “were being looked at,” according to Besser.
Tuesday’s police action began at about 4 p.m. when members of the DEA Salt Lake Metro Task Force served two search warrants targeting the suspected fentanyl tableting operation.
“We probably have several hundred thousand counterfeit tablets … primarily Oxycodone and Xanex … seized from this house and during the course of the investigation,” Besser said.
“This particular tableting operation has generated hundreds of thousands, if not millions of counterfeit tablets over the course of time, which are being distributed across the continental United States,” he said. “This not just limited to the Salt Lake area.”
According to Besser, a synthetic drug operation similar in scope was busted in Sandy City in June 2016, and a tablet press found at that location was able to produce 7,000 counterfeit opioid tablets per hour.
Besser also pointed out that many synthetic opioids, including those that are counterfeit, are far more powerful than traditional pain killers, and can be lethal in even in the smallest of doses.
“Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, fluoro-fentanyl, W18, U47700, which we dealt with in Park City — these opioids are extremely deadly,” Besser said.
They are so deadly that officers who processed the clandestine lab had to wear protective gear which included oxygen tanks and bubble suits.
“When we’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of pills, I think its safe to say that this investigation alone will have saved numerous lives, and we’re very proud of that, Besser said.
In addition to the DEA, agents from Homeland Security, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Postal Service and the IRS took part in the joint investigation.