Mexican drug cartel-linked street gang members sentenced to prison

Almost three years after a major drug trafficking operation in Salt Lake City, more than 30 members of the Norteños street gang have been sentenced to prison terms, the US prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

Sandy Baron Joseph Gomez was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison by a U.S. District Court judge on December 7. Gomez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and conspiracy to launder money.

31 other gang members pleaded guilty to the Dec. 7 charges and most received sentences ranging from 6 to 8 years in prison, the US prosecutor’s office said. Four other lower-level defendants have yet to be convicted.

Investigators identified the first Norteños group in the mid-1980s and found several other subsets in the early 1990s. Other unaligned street gangs began to associate under the Norteños umbrella in the early 1990s. 2000s, and the Salt Lake Valley has about 10 active subsets with around 100 to 150 active members, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The U.S. prosecutor’s office said the gang was responsible for the sale of heroin and methamphetamine in the Salt Lake area, as well as drive-by shootings, aggravated assault, theft and homicide.

“Through a sophisticated, transnational for-profit crime program; gang members have brought illegal guns, drugs and violence to our streets, ”said David Booth, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF ), in a press release. “This multi-year investigation is proof that there are no limits of place or time in our quest to stop violent crime.”

The ATF and the Salt Lake Area Metro Gang Unit began investigating Salt Lake street gangs, including Norteños, to target drug and gun sales in June 2018. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the criminal investigations branch of the Internal Revenue Service joined the investigation two months later.

Evidence showed that the 32 defendants were involved in a “typical drug trafficking program,” according to the US attorney’s office, moving drugs from Mexico and Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, distributing them and collecting money from them. sales.

Investigators discovered that Gomez and Denny Kandt were working with members of the Mexican drug cartel to distribute shipments of methamphetamine and heroin for sale by sub-distributors in the Salt Lake Valley.

The US attorney’s office said law enforcement seized more than 30 pounds of methamphetamine, 19 guns and more than $ 20,000 in cash during the investigation. The office reported that Norteños trafficked around 20 to 30 pounds of methamphetamine into Utah each month.

Federal prosecutors have charged a total of 38 defendants as a result of the investigation, with the main indictment involving Gomez, Kandt and the other 30 defendants convicted last week.

“This lawsuit highlights the high-level drug distribution networks that target our state and our communities, as well as the law enforcement partnerships that allow us to dismantle drug trafficking organizations from the cartel level to the dealers. street, ”said Acting United States lawyer Andrea T. Martinez said in a statement.

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