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32 Members and Associates of Norteños Gang in Utah Charged in Trafficking with the CJNG

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“Socalj” for Borderland Beat

Charges Allege That Leaders Worked with Mexican Drug Cartel CJNG to Distribute More Than 400 Pounds of Methamphetamine, 50 Pounds of Heroin and Thousands of Fentanyl Pills Throughout the Salt Lake Valley

The grand jury issued a 27-defendant, 34-count indictment on Wednesday, charging twenty-seven individuals associated with the Nortenos gang for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, fentanyl, and heroin across the Wasatch Front. Previously, it returned five other indictments relating to this investigation and operation. The charges follow joint Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force operations conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Metro Narcotics Task Force (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Unified Police Department’s Metro Gang Unit (MGU), the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division (IRS), and the United States Marshals Service.

These charges are the result of an investigation beginning in September of 2020 in Utah. During the investigation, law enforcement demonstrated extensive cooperation across the Salt Lake Valley, as the DEA, ATF, Unified Police Department’s Metro Gang Unit, IRS, and the United States Marshals Service conducted a proactive investigation targeting drug and firearms trafficking activities of Salt Lake City gang members, specifically Norteños and their associates.

This operation follows a previous 38-defendant federal investigation and indictments of Norteños and their associates trafficking in methamphetamine and heroin with the Sinaloa Cartel in February 2019. It is interesting to see the gang shifted their supply source to the CJNG from Sinaloa after that bust.

During this new operation, law enforcement officers seized more than 42 pounds of methamphetamine, seven pounds of heroin, 5,000 fentanyl pills, 71 grams of fentanyl powder, 15 firearms, and more than $25,000. Using court-authorized investigative techniques, law enforcement learned that the primary narcotics supplier for this group was Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). Investigators further estimate that the organization and its members are responsible for more than 420 pounds of methamphetamine and 50 pounds of heroin being transported to, and distributed in Salt Lake Valley during 2020 and 2021. Evidence gathered during the investigation demonstrates that the defendants were involved in transporting drugs from Mexico into the United States; moving the drugs to Salt Lake City; distributing the drugs to re-distributors who distributed the drugs throughout the community, and collecting and transporting drug proceeds back from Utah to Mexico.

Acting United States Attorney for the District of Utah Andrea T. Martinez announced the charges today along with DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jay Tinkler, ATF Resident Agent in Charge Michael Minichino, Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera, U.S. Marshal for the District of Utah Matthew Harris, and IRS-Criminal Investigations Special Agent Stephen Washburn.

The grand jury previously returned five indictments for defendants relating to this operation. The largest indictment returned on Wednesday charges 27 individuals with 34 federal counts, including continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl, conspiracy to launder money, along with several distribution and possession with intent to distribute narcotics charges, and several additional firearms charges. 

Norteños are gang members initially from Central and Northern California that are affiliated with and pay tribute to Nuestra Familia as opposed to the Mexican Mafia. Like the Surenos they have expanded beyond the prisons and streets of California. 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.

Sources: DOJ DOJ


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