OGDEN — Weber County Jail investigators say they have broken up a drug ring in which accomplices outside mailed narcotics-soaked postcards to an inmate, who allegedly cut them up and sold the pieces to fellow prisoners.
The county prosecutor's office filed three first-degree felony drug distribution charges Wednesday against Joshua Lee Kendall, 34, who already was held on a federal narcotics dealing charge and has a long felony drug record in state courts, mostly in Salt Lake County.
Weber County Sheriff's Office jail investigators said in a probable cause statement that they examined several postcards that Kendall possessed and had been addressed to him. Rapid evidence tests showed the cards were infused with opium alkaloids and methamphetamine, and subsequent tests at the state crime lab confirmed the results.
The investigation began in September 2019, the sheriff's office said in a Facebook post.
In the arrest affidavit, investigators said they tracked Kendall's use of his and other inmates' phone and tablet accounts in the jail. They allege he orchestrated the operation in texts and calls with accomplices on the outside.
Investigators also compiled transcripts from phone calls and video visits between Kendall and others not in jail. Many conversations mentioned gang activity, drug sales and money owed to Kendall, the charging document said.
Kendall and accomplices used slang terms to communicate about narcotics, it said.
The affidavit named three people on the outside as alleged participants in the scheme. As of Thursday afternoon, none of the three had been charged, according to court records.
Twenty other jail inmates were identified as buyers and users of the smuggled postcard drugs, Kendall's arrest affidavit said.
It was not immediately clear whether those inmates had been charged. Most often, inmates found with drugs in jail are written up for loss of privileges and are screened for the filing of criminal charges.
Those involved in the alleged operation used inmate accounts in the jail as well as Venmo, Cash App and PayPal accounts on the outside, the affidavit said.
Second District Judge Jennifer Valencia signed an order Wednesday requiring Kendall to be held without bail.
On May 1, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell in Salt Lake City sentenced Kendall to 90 months in federal prison and three years' probation after he was convicted of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine from December 2018 through February 2019.
By contract, the U.S. Marshals Service routinely houses prisoners in county jails while they are awaiting trial or transfer to a federal prison.