You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Utah

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 28, 2019

Members, Associates Of Norteño Street Gang Charged In Heroin, Methamphetamine Drug Case

Charges Allege Leaders Worked With Mexican Drug Cartel Members

SALT LAKE CITY – Thirty-three members and associates of the Norteño street gang allegedly responsible for distributing drugs around the Salt Lake City area are facing federal charges in recently unsealed complaints filed in federal court.  During the investigation, agents seized methamphetamine and heroin headed to Salt Lake City from drug cartels in Mexico and drug proceeds from Utah headed south to cartels in Mexico.

U.S. Attorney for Utah John W. Huber, DEA District Agent in Charge Brian S. Besser, ATF Special Agent in Charge Debbie Livingston, IRS-Criminal Investigation Assistant Special Agent in Charge Tyler R. Hatcher, Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera, and U.S. Marshal Matt Harris announced the charges today. The Salt Lake Area Metro Gang Unit assisted with the case.

The arrests in this case follow a coordinated investigation involving federal and local law enforcement partners, including the ATF, the DEA, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Salt Lake Area Metro Gang Unit, the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. Marshals Service’s VFAST

Twenty-seven individuals are charged in one complaint. Six other individuals are charged in five separate complaints.

The charges are the result of an investigation that started in June 2018 when the Metro Gang Unit and the ATF began targeting drug and firearms trafficking activities of Salt Lake City gang members, specifically Norteños.  DEA joined the investigation in August 2018, according to the complaint.

As noted in the complaint, gang investigators documented Utah’s first Norteño group in the mid-1980s, followed by several other sub-sets in the early 1990s.  Unaligned or independent street gangs began associating under the Norteño umbrella in the early 2000s.  According to the complaint, the Salt Lake Valley has approximately 10 active Norteño sub-sets, with approximately 100-150 active Norteño gang members.  Norteños in the Salt Lake Valley have been responsible for drive-by shootings, aggravated assaults, robberies, and homicides, the complaint says.

As a part of this proactive investigation, agents used court-authorized investigative tools to learn that Joe Gomez aka Norte Joe, age 32, and Denny Kandt aka Casper, age 41, were working with Mexican drug cartel members to distribute drugs originating from cartels in Mexico in and around the Salt Lake Valley, the complaint alleges.

The complaint alleges Gomez received shipments of methamphetamine and heroin sent by Mexico-based drug traffickers identified as Pedro LNU (Last Name Unknown) and Luis LNU and a Los Angeles-based drug trafficker referred to as UM4192 in the complaint.

The complaint also alleges Kandt, a Salt Lake City-based drug trafficker, supplied Gomez with methamphetamine. Gomez and Kandt supplied drugs to various Salt Lake City-based sub-distributors.  Other Salt Lake City distributors, on occasion, supplied Gomez with drugs, the complaint alleges.

During the investigation and the execution of search warrants at several locations, agents seized approximately 30 pounds of methamphetamine, 2 pounds of heroin, and more than 19 firearms.

Investigators have identified 26 distributors or couriers involved in Gomez’s organization. Many of these distributors are known gang members or gang affiliates.  Many are associated with sub-sets of the Norteño gang. 

Throughout the investigation, agents intercepted communications indicating that representatives for the Mexico-based drug traffickers stayed at Gomez’s residence, while drugs were being distributed, to ensure that proceeds were collected and turned over to Pedro LNU and Luis LNU. Agents conducted a number of controlled drug purchases from Gomez and Kandt.

During the course of the investigation, agents seized both drugs and money from this alleged drug trafficking organization.  Agents have seized drug proceeds headed to cartels in Mexico, as well as heroin and methamphetamine headed to Salt Lake County originating from cartels in Mexico. 

For example, during the investigation, agents learned that on October 17, 2018, Gomez sent Jessica Rice and Angel Cordova to Los Angeles to pick up 20 pounds of methamphetamine and half a kilogram of heroin provided by Pedro LNU sand Luis LNU.  Based on the evidence gathered during the investigation, agents seized this delivery of 20 pounds of methamphetamine and a half-kilogram of heroin.  Gomez received drug quantities of this level with some regularity throughout the investigative time period, sometimes on a monthly basis. 

On another occasion, agents seized drug proceeds in the form of cash that was destined to arrive in the hands of the Mexican cartel.  Some $19,820 in drug proceeds were interdicted on November 1, 2018, near Nephi, Utah. Investigators believe these seizures represent a fraction of the drug trafficking carried out by Gomez and his associates during the course of this investigation.

The complaint alleges the defendants were engaged in a typical drug trafficking scheme involving:

  • Importation of drugs from Mexico into the United States
  • Transportation of drugs to a destination area (Salt Lake City)
  • Distribution of drugs to a re-distributors who distribute the drugs throughout the community
  • Collection and transportation of drug proceeds
     
    27 DEFENDANTS CHARGED IN US v GOMEZ, ET AL  CONSPIRACY COMPLAINT 
     
    Count 1:         Conspiracy to distribute Methamphetamine
    Potential sentence of life in prison with a 10-year mandatory minimum, $10 million fine, and 5 years of supervised release
     
                            (These individuals are charged in both conspiracy counts)
     
    Joe Gomez aka Norte Joe, age 32
    Denny Kandt aka Casper, age 41
    Leticia Chidester, age 48
    Trevor Marsh, age 55
    Jessica Rice, age 43
    Angel Trudy Cordova,age 37
    David Calderon aka Menace, age 29
    Joshua Lee Kendall aka Criminal, age 32
    Melquiadez Ramirez aka Thumper, age 26
    Michele Vincent Gatti aka Mike, age 45
    Sulayman Sarr aka Africa, age 32
    Zachariah Matthew Coles aka Zig Zag, age 43
    Lisa Nicole Valdez Garcia, age 31
    Steven Edward Manolito, age 32
    Patrick Austin, age 50
    Danial Movahhed aka Maniac, age 32
    Jerry Lewis Jackson, age 56
    Mark Russell Cordova, age 36
    Tony Devaughn Linam aka Hoodlum, age 36
    David Soto-Acosta aka Droops, age 23
    Nicholas Dean MacNeil aka Nico, age 28
    Ashley Marie Rodriquez, age 30
    Roy Pearson, age 42  
    Dee Dee Cordova, age 47
                           
    (These two individuals are charged in this count only)
     
    Sarah Ruth Gordon, age 31
    Mayra Alejandra Gomez, age 35

     Count 2:         Conspiracy to distribute heroin
    Potential sentence of life in prison with a 10-year mandatory minimum, $10 million fine, and 5 years of supervised release           
     
    (These individuals are charged in both conspiracy counts)
     
    Joe Gomez aka Norte Joe, age 32
    Denny Kandt aka Casper, age 41
    Leticia Chidester, age 48
    Trevor Marsh, age 55
    Jessica Rice, age 43
    Angel Trudy Cordova,age 37
    David Calderon aka Menace, age 29
    Joshua Lee Kendall aka Criminal, age 32
    Melquiadez Ramirez aka Thumper, age 26
    Michele Vincent Gatti aka Mike, age 45
    Sulayman Sarr aka Africa, age 32
    Zachariah Matthew Coles aka Zig Zag, age 43
    Lisa Nicole Valdez Garcia, age 31
    Steven Edward Manolito, age 32
    Patrick Austin, age 50
    Danial Movahhed aka Maniac, age 32
    Jerry Lewis Jackson, age 56
    Mark Russell Cordova, age 36
    Tony Devaughn Linam aka Hoodlum, age 36
    David Soto-Acosta aka Droops, age 23
    Nicholas Dean MacNeil aka Nico, age 28
    Ashley Marie Rodriquez, age 30
    Roy Pearson, age 42  
    Dee Dee Cordova, age 47
     
    (This individual is charged in this count only)
     
    Colton McBride aka Lil Bandit, age 26

    SIX INDIVIDUALS CHARGED IN FIVE INDIVIDUAL COMPLAINTS

    Rudy Garcia aka Rascal, age 29, is charged in a complaint with distribution of methamphetamine and felon in possession of firearm.  He faces up to 40 years in prison for the drug count with a five-year mandatory minimum and up to 10 years for the firearm count.  
     
    Billie Len Collins, age 34, is charged in a complaint with distribution of methamphetamine. She faces up to 40 years in prison with a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.
     
    Davis Toki aka T-Down, age 38, is charged in a complaint with distribution of methamphetamine. He faces up to 40 years in prison with a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.
     
    Rex Myers aka Lazy, age 39, is charged in a complaint with felon in possession of a firearm. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
     
    Travis Benjamin Torres aka Shorty, age 41, and Tessie Shallamar Montoya, age 37, are charged in a complaint with distribution of methamphetamine and felon in possession of a firearm.  They face up to 40 years in prison with a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the drug count.  The firearm count has a potential 10 years sentence.
     
    (Indictments will being filed in these five cases later today.)
     
    Arrest warrants are pending for Coles and Jackson.  Austin, Dee Dee Cordova, Mayra Alejandra Gomez and Sarr have been released.  All other defendants are in custody pending trial.  
     
    The defendants are from the Salt Lake County area.
     
    Complaints are not findings of guilt.  Individuals charged in complaints are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court.
     
Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Updated February 28, 2019