The U.S. Department of Justice charged 21 alleged white supremacist gang members and associates in Utah last week with distributing drugs and firearms around the state.
USA Today reports that the accused are associated with three identified white supremacist gangs, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Utah and an investigation conducted by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The three gangs are the Soldiers of Aryan Culture, Silent Aryan Warriors and Noble Elect Thugs.
“Twenty-one documented gang members and associates of several home-grown white supremacist gangs allegedly responsible for distributing drugs and firearms around the Salt Lake City and Ogden areas are charged in 15 indictments unsealed Friday morning in federal court,” a statement released Friday by the attorney’s office read. “The joint local-federal investigation resulted in 15 unsealed indictments alleging distribution of methamphetamine, felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of a firearm during and in relation to a narcotics trafficking offense.”
According to CNN, 11 of the 21 defendants were arrested Wednesday, while the other ten were already in custody on other charges.
“SAC and SAW are highly volatile, dangerous criminal enterprises,” Mike Schoenfeld, director of the Salt Lake Area Gang Project, said during a Friday news conference announcing the arrests, Fox 13 reports. “These gangs have their roots right here in the Utah prison system. It’s not something to be proud of. But they also have very strong ties nationwide to other violent white supremacy groups.”
According to Fox 13, Matt Harris, U.S. marshal for the District of Utah, also spoke at the press conference saying that “These targets were violent, they’re criminals, and they’re the worst in our communities.”
BuzzFeed reports that the announcement of the arrests—which followed a 16-month long investigation that began in June 2019, according to the attorney’s office’s statement—came just days after the DOJ charged 24 other alleged white supremacist gang members in Texas, Mississippi, and Kentucky for crimes that include firearms trafficking and murder.