SALT LAKE CITY– Prosecutors filed federal charges against 21 white supremacist gang members and associates accused of drug distribution and illegal weapons trafficking in Ogden and Salt Lake City, Utah.
The charges include the distribution of methamphetamine, firearm possession of felon, and possession of a firearm during and in relation to a narcotics trafficking offense, the US Attorney John W. Huber for the District of Utah announced Friday.
“Unfortunately, this is a Utah problem,” said Huber, referring to white supremacist gangs.
Law enforcement officials said the white supremacist gang members facing criminal charges in Utah hold affiliations with Soldiers of Aryan Culture (SAC), Silent Aryan Warriors (SAW), and Noble Elect Thugs (NET). Huber says these groups create a very large and complex criminal underworld.
“[It’s] more pervasive and dangerous than most Utahns could imagine.”
Huber says SAC was founded in the 90’s inside the Utah State Prison system, and has grown into a large organization.
He said, “It’s one of ours. We own it and we’re not proud of it.”
During the course of the investigation, investigators found more than 1.5 pounds of meth and 15 guns. Plus, they reportedly took down a meth lab in Utah, which are becoming less common. Huber says most of the drugs they’re getting come from Mexico.
“Mexican drug cartels are the source of supply of cheap methamphetamine, heroin and now that most dangerous substance, fentanyl,” according to Huber.
Salt Lake Area Gang Project Director Lt. Mike Schoenfeld says these groups are mostly tied with things like forgery and identity theft, but many of the suspects they arrested had already been in prison for violent offenses.
“White supremacy groups are tied to everything from simple mail theft and identity theft to homicide,” Schoenfeld says.
Investigators say groups like SAC and SAW will hold to their racial lines very strongly while in prison, but once out, they’ll work with any criminal operation they can, no matter their race or religion.
“White supremacist groups work across racial lines with other gangs outside of the prison system for narcotics and firearms,” according to Schoenfeld.
Finding and tracking these drug shipments is getting harder to do since cartels are becoming “more creative” in their manufacturing, Schoefeld says. He says cartels have been trying to make their own fentanyl and found ways to keep streets filled with drugs, even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the news conference, Huber said the federal court unsealed 15 indictments earlier in the day. The indictments came out of an investigation that started in June 2019. Many federal and local law enforcement agencies contributed to the investigation into the possible crimes committed by white supremacists gang members and associates.
Officials issued arrest warrants for 11 of the suspects in connection to the crimes. Some of the suspects are already in police custody and even charged with unrelated crimes.
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