Accused Drug Dealers Arrested and Prosecuted for Illegal Drug Possession and Distribution Charges, 14,000 Fentanyl Pills Seized
SALT LAKE CITY – A joint FBI and DEA federal narcotics investigation has resulted in the conviction of 23 federal defendants in Utah, taking out a large-scale methamphetamine distribution organization in Salt Lake County run by members of eight street gangs and supplied by a Mexican drug cartel.
Throughout the course of the complex multi-year investigation, agents from the FBI, DEA, and multiple federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies worked together using advanced court authorized investigative techniques and undercover purchases to determine that 24 defendants (including one that remains a fugitive in Mexico) were operating a complex methamphetamine distribution scheme in Salt Lake County. The organized narcotics ring was set up like a business which included security, counter-surveillance, secret codes, firearms, and large amounts of cash, with each member having a distinct role in in the group.
During the operation and resulting arrests of the 23 defendants, law enforcement officers seized 41 pounds of methamphetamine and 17 firearms, including 13 firearms and assorted ammunition from one defendant who was prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm after a felony conviction. Collectively, these 24 defendants were members of eight separate gangs and the organization was supplied by members of a Mexican drug cartel in Southern California.
The street gangs involved were the Surenos, Nortenos, La Raza, Vario Chosen Few, East Side Raskals, Baby Regulators, Soldiers of Aryan Culture, and Tiny Oriental Posse.
The sentences received by each defendant are:
“State and federal cooperation is one of the hallmarks of effective law enforcement. This operation highlights these partnerships, which work especially well together in Utah,” said Acting United States Attorney Andrea T. Martinez. “Dangerous, gang-affiliated drug trafficking organizations, like the organization prosecuted in this particular indictment, bring violence and chaos to our city streets. We pledge to continue to work together to disrupt and dismantle any drug trafficking organizations that target our state.”
“This case isn’t just about the massive amount of drugs that were brought into our neighborhoods, but the gang activity and violent crime that often accompanied it. These drug organizations run like a big business, and we were able to target this one at every level,” said Special Agent in Charge Dennis Rice of the Salt Lake City FBI. “The unfortunate reality is that our work is far from over. Rest assured, the FBI and our partners are committed to identifying, investigating, and dismantling these criminal enterprises that threaten the safety of our kids and communities.”
"This long-term joint investigation targeted local area gangs that were responsible for the distribution of significant amounts of methamphetamine within our neighborhoods. As evidenced during the course of this case, these gang members utilized violence and intimidation to maintain control of their territories,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Tinkler. “Through the concerted efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, this organization was successfully dismantled highlighting the impact that partnerships have on addressing drug and violence related crime in Utah."
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Stephen Nelson and Stewart Young from the Utah United States Attorney’s Office under the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, and the investigation was conducted by Special Agents from the FBI and DEA. Assisting with the investigations were officers from the Salt Lake City Police Department, West Valley City Police Department, Sandy Police Department, West Jordan Police Department, and the Utah Department of Public Safety, who participate as members of the FBI’s Safe Street Task Force; the Unified Police Department and the Metro Gang Unit; the Murray Police Department, the United States Marshals Service, ATF, and ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations.