SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Investigators have announced charges against a gang-related drug trafficking organization in Utah on Tuesday.
Authorities say this organization has ties to a new, and more dangerous, cartel. During the press conference, which you can watch above, charges were announced against dozens involved. This comes after a joint investigation between state and federal officials.
Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah Andrea T. Martinez announced a federal grand jury granted a 27-defendant, 34-count indictment, charging 27 individuals associated with the Nortenos gang for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, fentanyl, and heroin across the Wasatch Front. The jury previously returned five other indictments relating to this investigation.
Of those charged, nearly a dozen have been previously convicted of federal crimes in Utah and Wyoming.
The investigation began in September 2020. Over 42 pounds of methamphetamine, seven pounds of heroin, 5,000 fentanyl pills, 71 grams of fentanyl powder, 15 firearms, and more than $25,000 were seized during the investigation.
Investigators say they believe those involved are responsible for 420 pounds of methamphetamine being distributed and transported in the Salt Lake Valley during 2020 and 2021. Drugs were reportedly brought to Utah from Mexico.
The complaint alleges the drugs were then given to redistributors, who then distributed the drugs throughout the community.
Through their investigation, authorities say they learned the primary narcotics supplier for the group was Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
Those charged in the latest indictment are:
- Luis Cuna-Vigil, 35, of Rosarito, Mexico
- Jesus Avila-Garcia, 46, of Salt Lake City
- Joe Robert Rael, aka “Jojo,” 52, of Salt Lake City
- Jerry Philip Vigil, aka “Nino,”47, of Bountiful
- Jennifer Lopez-Lopez, 20, of San Marcos, California
- Maria Isla-Avila, aka “Sky,” 22, of Escondido, California
- Martin Verduzco-Muro, aka “Lalo,” 28, of Bountiful
- Edward David Lucero, 54, of Sandy
- Linda Hernandez-Alvarez, 34, of Salt Lake City
- Brian Michael Fioravanti, 34, of Salt Lake City
- Jeffrey Kraig Ellis, 60, of West Valley City
- Patrice Raelynn Estes, 49, of Salt Lake City
- Leandro Cortez Ochoa Lovato-Howells, 40, of Salt Lake City
- Mario Alberto Lovato, aka “Grump,” 40, of Salt Lake City
- Joseph Raymond Trujillo, aka “Qujo,” 31, of West Valley City
- Celina Alexandra Garcia, “Baby G,” 26, of Salt Lake City
- Pete Vince Espinoza, 37, of Salt Lake City
- Judy Ann Maestas, 30, of Salt Lake City
- Felicia Nicole Mingura, aka “Fela,” 34, of Salt Lake City
- Erika Rachelle Vigil, 30, of West Valley City
- Jessica LeAnn Vigil, 30, of Sandy
- Anthony James Runion, aka “Lil Ace,” 19, of Salt Lake City
- Richard Lawrence Trujillo, 32, of Salt Lake City
- Brandon Jay Perrault, aka “Trip,” 42, of Salt Lake City
- Pedro Jurado, 56, of Midvale
- Kyle Jimenez-Cuna, 18, of Bountiful
In mid-May, a federal grand jury indicted 21 people for their role in a large drug trafficking ring run out of Utah. The Department of Justice says the 21 individuals face a total of 32 charges for a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine across the Wasatch Front.
Representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office; Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF); Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA); the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office; and the IRS participated in the Tuesday press conference.
You can watch the full press conference in the video player above.