Federal authorities in Utah have charged 21 white supremacist gang members and associates with distributing drugs and firearms around the state, according to a series of indictments unsealed Friday.
The charges follow a 16-month investigation into three “home-grown” hate groups _ Soldiers of Aryan Culture, Silent Aryan Warriors and Noble Elect Thugs _ which officials described as increasingly organized criminal enterprises.
“Unfortunately, this is a Utah product,” U.S. Attorney John Huber said at a news conference. “There are many things to be proud of in Utah, from our snow, beautiful mountains, national parks. White supremacist gangs, it’s one of ours. We own it and we’re not proud of it.”
The suspects are accused of selling methamphetamine, heroin, painkillers, marijuana and other drugs in the Salt Lake City and Ogden areas.
The investigation, led by local and federal authorities, resulted in a slew of felony charges against the group, including distribution of methamphetamine and possession of a firearm by a felon. Nine of the suspects could face up to life in prison if convicted.
Investigators also recovered 15 firearms and 1.65 pounds of meth during the probe.
Officials said many of the defendants have been involved in criminal conduct in Utah communities for many years. One of the gangs, Soldiers of Aryan Culture, was born in a Utah state prison in the 1990s and has been expanding ever since, Huber told reporters.
The FBI recently warned lawmakers that white supremacist groups are among the top threats to U.S. national security.
“Within that racially-motivated violent extremism bucket, people ascribing to some kind of white supremacist-type ideology is certainly the biggest chunk of that,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told the House of Representatives during a hearing last month.
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