3 Tongans indicted in major meth distribution ring targeting Salt Lake County

Three Tongans are among a group of people indicted in a major drug ring in the US.

The three accused are Siosifina Ositamani, 41, of Salt Lake City, Makasini Lomu, 50, of West Valley City and Timote Fangupo, 36, of West Jordan.

U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber called it "an organized crime indictment against 24 individuals involved in a common conspiracy to obtain large loads of dangerous drugs and distribute them directly to the streets of Salt Lake County through a complicated network."

Huber said the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration had each been conducting their own separate drug trafficking investigations for several weeks when they discovered each organization was using the same supplier out of southern California. At that point, the two organizations combined forces.

According to local media reports, Huber said the drug organization was set up like a business that included security, counter-surveillance, secret codes, firearms, large amounts of cash, and each person having a distinct role within the group. Authorities seized 17 firearms in addition to the drugs.

But Huber said a partnership with local, state and federal agencies that used "every tool under the law" resulted in the charges. Some of those tools included wiretaps and intercepting phone conversations.

The meth is believed to have originated in Mexico before it was shipped to Southern California and eventually to Utah, according to authorities. The group specifically distributed in Salt Lake County, according to investigators.

Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown said the bust would have an impact. But it won't be long before someone else fills that void, he said. The fact that all 41 pounds of seized methamphetamine was headed to Salt Lake County is another example of the appetite the public has for drugs, and why treatment is needed to help fight the problem.