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Arrest is first under `drug kingpin' law

The arrest of Sylvia Simpson on drug-related charges is the first under Utah's new "drug kingpin" law that became effective in April.

Salt Lake County District Attorney E. Neal Gunnarson said Simpson, an Arizona resident, was arrested this week under a first-degree felony law enacted during the last session of the legislature. It is aimed at getting to people who are organizers, supervisors or managers of drug enterprises."This is a case that involved the recent arrest of a defendant found possessing 230 pounds of marijuana," Gunnarson said.

The new law also spells out other requirements, including engaging in such crimes with five other people.

The two-year investigation, which is continuing, involved the district attorney's office, the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, the FBI and U.S. Customs.

Gunnarson said he was proud of the work these agencies did, since such cases are time-consuming and ordinarily don't get people who are allegedly at the top of an illegal operation.

"It is difficult to find someone in management working in consort with five other people," he said.

Some individuals might dismiss this arrest with the attitude that "this is only marijuana," but Gunnarson said it is important.

"Based on her (Simpson's) confession to police, it is alleged that she has personally brought into Utah $2 million to $3 million worth of drugs, principally marijuana," he said. "Here is a case of a person who personally managed a drug cartel."

Under the new "drug kingpin" law, Simpson could face seven years to life in prison, with no chance of suspension or probation if she is convicted. She also has been charged with six counts of second-degree felony unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and five counts of money laundering.

Three other arrests were made.