Utah County sheriff’s deputy exposed to cocaine during drug-trafficking arrest in American Fork

Utah County Sheriff's Office vehicle. Photo: Gephardt Daily/Monico Garza/SLCScanner

AMERICAN FORK, Utah, Feb. 21, 2023 (Gephardt Daily) — A Utah County sheriff’s deputy was treated for exposure to cocaine Saturday following a drug-trafficking arrest with possible ties to Mexican cartels.

Deputies arrested Carlos Salvador Santos, 23, of California, for investigation of trafficking cocaine and heroin, and found information linking him to drug cartels during a traffic stop on Interstate 15 in American Fork.

The investigation started as a traffic stop for speeding, but as the deputy spoke to Santos, “he saw behaviors … that are consistent with a person who may be involved in drug trafficking,” the Utah County Sheriff’s Office stated in a news release.

While the deputy was writing a citation for no proof of insurance, a sheriff’s office K-9 handler deployed his dog around the outside of the vehicle, according to the sheriff’s office.

“The dog gave a positive alert for the presence of narcotics inside the car,” the release states.

Deputies then searched the car and found a shoebox containing cylindrical-shaped packages wrapped in a clear pink plastic, according to the news release.

Normal procedure is to cut open a package to run a field test on the contents,” the sheriff’s office stated. “When one of the deputies cut an opening in one of the packages, they found there was positive pressure inside the package, which caused white powder to blow into the face of one of the deputies.”

The deputy was later evaluated at an area hospital as a precaution and was found to have no effects from the cocaine exposure, according to the sheriff’s office.

Deputies initially were concerned the powder may be fentanyl, which is a potentially deadly synthetic opioid, the news release states. The substance tested positive for cocaine, which is “still a dangerous drug but without the same immediately deadly potential as fentanyl,” the sheriff’s office stated.

The packages were later weighed and found to contain 536 grams of cocaine, or 5,360 individual doses. Another package contained 142 grams of heroin, or 1,420 individual doses, according to the news release.

Deputies also found a “medallion representing Santa Muerte, or Lady of Holy Death,” and part of a coyote pelt, the release states.

“Items such as this Santa Muerte medallion and the coyote pelt are known to be associated with those associated with drug cartels and involved in drug trafficking activities,” the sheriff’s office stated.

Santos has prior drug-trafficking convictions and previously has been deported from the United States, according to the sheriff’s office.

The U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is investigating Santos for aggravated re-entry into the U.S., the release states.

Santos was arrested for investigation of:

  • Possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, a second-degree felony
  • Possession of heroin with intent to distribute, a second-degree felony
  • Possession of marijuana, a class B misdemeanor
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor
  • Speeding and no proof of insurance, both infractions

He is being held without bail in the Utah County Jail.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here