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Mexican man accused of running drug ring

A Mexican national has been charged with heading a drug ring that smuggled more than 600 pounds of marijuana, worth about $2 million, into Utah within the past six months.

Jesus Leonel Olivares, 25, was charged in 3rd District Court Thurs-day with engaging in a continuing controlled-substance criminal enterprise, a first-degree felony also known as Utah's "drug kingpin" law.Olivares was also charged with money laundering, a second-degree felony. A $500,000 warrant was issued for his arrest.

Olivares is the second individual charged under the drug kingpin law, which was enacted during the last legislative session and became effective in April. Sylvia Simpson, 54, an Arizona resident arrested last week, was the first charged under the law, which targets organizers, supervisors or managers of drug enterprises.

According to the charges, Olivares has supervised at least five persons since about March 1995 in "an ongoing criminal syndicate to smuggle, import, transport, conceal and distribute marijuana and other controlled substances into Salt Lake County."

An investigation by Salt Lake County Sheriff's detectives revealed Olivares had sent four shipments totaling about 615 pounds of marijuana from Douglas, Ariz., to Utah between August and February, according to the charges. In each case, Olivares used the same smugglers and the same Salt Lake County distributors.

Profits from the sale of the marijuana were then sent to Olivares, who owns a house in Agua Priete, Mexico, a town which borders Douglas.

Olivares also owns a Salt Lake County house at 5515 S. China Clay Drive (5980 West), which he bought in February 1996 with drug proceeds, the charges state. His Utah distributors used the house to store and distribute the marijuana.

Olivares was arrested last weekend by FBI agents in Douglas, after he crossed the border from Agua Priete.

He had previously evaded authorities by ramming a car into police vehicles during a traffic stop at the Arizona-Mexico border in March 1995, the charges state. That same month, Olivares is believed to have been involved in an armed confrontation between federal agents and drug traffickers at the Duglas-Agua Priete border.

Under the drug kingpin law, Olivares could face seven years to life in prison, with no chance of suspension or probation if convicted.