SALT LAKE CITY -- For nearly 6 years, the Utah Attorney General's SECURE Strike Force has been investigating immigrants without documentation who commit felony crimes, and they recently took a man accused of dealing drugs into custody.
Many of the arrests made by the SECURE Strike Force stem from tips from the Latino community in Utah, and the task force has taken down drug dealers, gun traffickers and identity fraud suspects—nearly all of whom had entered the United States illegally.
After months of surveillance and several controlled purchases by undercover agents, members of the strike force made their move, and arrested their main target: Salvador Lopez. Lopez and his wife were taken from a car during a traffic stop and separated, and FOX 13 News was present as the arrest unfolded. See the video above for that footage.
Lopez told police the woman doesn’t know anything, but as investigators searched the vehicle they located what they suspected they’d find: several ounces of cocaine ready for sale. There was also a large amount of cash, most of which was in the woman’s purse.
"We seized over $10,000 in cash, vehicles, and also approximately 7 ounces of cocaine,” said Supervising Agent Kevin Pepper of the Utah Attorney General Office’s SECURE Strike Force.
Officials said these are not kingpin quantities, but, according to detectives, this is the kind of mid-level street dealer that helps flood the streets with coke, heroin and meth.
Pepper said it's the latest example of how the SECURE Strike Force works: people from within Utah’s Latino community providing tips to police about criminal activity in their neighborhood, all while the tipsters can rest easy about their own immigration status and not worry that the cops may wind up busting them as well.
The value of the program is a message SECURE has been preaching since 2009.
Pepper said they want tipsters: “To come forward, to give us the information. We don't care about their legal status. What we want is the criminals who are committing violent, felony offenses."
Pepper said Salvador Lopez is also another example of how a relatively small number of immigrants, legal or otherwise, wind up committing a large amount of crimes.
“He was an aggravated re-entry into the country, so he is undocumented and he has warrants under an alias name, I believe back in 2007, that are still outstanding for his arrest,” Pepper said.
To contact the SECURE Strike Force, call 801-281-1207.