by: Vivian Chow
Posted: / Updated:
SALT LAKE CITY – Members of a drug distribution ring have been sentenced to prison in a large-scale case for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and heroin in and around the Salt Lake Valley.
A U.S. District Court Judge in the District of Utah has sentenced Joseph “Norte Joe” Gomez to 14 years in prison and five years of supervised release. The five years sentencing is due to a previous guilty charge of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and conspiracy to launder money.
Gomez was sentenced along with all 31 members and associates of the Norteños street gang. Most defendants have received sentences ranging between 72-96 months.
The Norteños gang first surfaced in the Salt Lake area in the mid-1980s followed by sub-groups in the ‘90s. According to court documents, the Salt Lake Valley has around 10 active Norteños sub-sets with around 100-150 active gang members.
The DEA and IRS-CID started the Gomez investigation in 2018 on a complaint that Gomez and his associates were allegedly transporting drugs from Mexico into the U.S. and then moving and distributing it in the Salt Lake City area.
The investigation found Joe Gomez aka “Norte Joe” and Denny Kandt aka “Casper” were collaborating with Mexican drug cartel members. Gomez also received methamphetamine and heroin shipments from a Los Angeles-based drug trafficker, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Authorities seized over 30 pounds of methamphetamine, 19 firearms, and over $20,000 in cash. Officials say the Norteños trafficked around 20-30 pounds of meth every month into Utah.
Federal prosecutors obtained indictments for 38 defendants in this investigation.
“Being able to effectively dismantle this criminal organization, to include its leaders, is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire investigative team,” said Special Agent in Charge David Booth. “Through a sophisticated and transnational crime-for-profit scheme; gang members brought illegal guns, drugs, and violence to our streets. This multi-year investigation is proof there are no boundaries of place or time in our pursuit to stop violent crime,” Booth added.