Federal officials have indicted and charged 21 Utah-based white supremacists from several different gangs for allegedly selling and distributing drugs and firearms around the state.
The US Attorney's Office for the District of Utah unsealed the charges of 15 different indictments on Friday, Oct. 16, detailing the results of a 16-month investigation that involved several local and federal agencies. The announcement comes days after the Department of Justice charged 24 other alleged white supremacist gang members in Texas, Mississippi, and Kentucky for an array of crimes, from firearms trafficking to murder.
In a statement Friday, federal prosecutors in Utah said that members and associates of the well-known “home-grown” white supremacist gangs — Soldiers of Aryan Culture (SAC) members, Silent Aryan Warriors (SAW) members, and Noble Elect Thugs (NET) — allegedly trafficked methamphetamine and firearms around the Salt Lake City and Ogden areas.
Authorities arrested 11 people on Wednesday and 10 others were already in custody, the Justice Department said. The investigation started in June 2019 and involved the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the US Marshals Service, and several local police departments and gang units. The task force said that 1.65 pounds of meth was purchased during the investigation and 15 firearms were recovered.
At a press conference announcing the charges, US Attorney John Huber said many of the gang members were “documented” and had lengthy criminal records. SAC started in the Utah State Prison in the 1990s and has since “grown in its pervasiveness,” spreading to prison systems around the country.
“Unfortunately, this is a Utah product,” he said. “White supremacy gangs, we own it and we aren’t proud of it.”
In a 2016 report on white supremacy in the United States, the Anti-Defamation League described SAC as a “large” prison gang. In one instance in 2014, a member was convicted of second-degree murder for his part in “beating to death a fellow white inmate who had refused to protest against having an African-American cellmate.”
While SAC and SAW are known white supremacist gangs — Huber called them “classics” — NET is “a new one,” he said.
The crackdown on Utah’s white supremacist gangs comes just two days after two dozen other alleged white supremacists across three states were indicted “on charges of racketeering conspiracy, violent crimes in aid of racketeering, drug conspiracy, and unlawful firearms trafficking.”
In its release on Wednesday, the Justice Department said the roundup was part of a larger investigation into Aryan Circle, “a violent, race‑based organization that operates inside federal prisons across the country and outside prisons in states including Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Missouri.”
Federal officials said that current and former high-ranking gang leaders were among those charged. Some of their alleged crimes include assault, murder, and kidnapping as part of racketeering.
On Thursday, Oct. 15, Richard Holzer, a 28-year-old white supremacist also pleaded guilty to plotting to bomb a historic synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado, last November. Holzer admitted that he wanted to attack the temple “to drive people of Jewish faith out of his community,” federal officials said.
The indictments of 45 violent racists across the country follow yet another instance of President Donald Trump publicly waffling when pointedly asked to denounce white supremacy.
During the first presidential debate two weeks ago, Trump refused to condemn the Proud Boys, a far-right group of men known for instigating violence, instead telling the group to "stand down and stand by" as racial justice protests have roiled the country for months. He later said at a town hall on Thursday that he denounced white supremacy — but quickly pivoted to decrying far-left groups like antifa and calling them “violent.”
Antifa, however, is not an organization. It is an anti-fascist protest movement made up of a loose collection of groups, networks, and individuals who have, in some instances, engaged in violent interactions with conservatives and far-right protesters, according to the ADL.
The president has also refused to denounce QAnon; he has praised adherents of the mass delusion for being against child sex abuse despite reports that they are actually hindering anti-trafficking efforts.
At his press conference on Friday, Huber made a point to say that the arrests had nothing to do with politics or the looming election.
“There are cynics who would say, ‘Oh, this is just a response to the political debate that’s going on this election season.’ No,” he said, adding that he was concerned that people would think the Justice Department directed his state to crack down on white supremacists to help the Trump administration’s image.
“I think that’s interesting in the political season where you have this debate going or at least accusations being made,” he said, “but here you have the result of investigations that are a year-plus old.”