Silent Aryan Warriors (SAW) originated in the Utah prisons in the 1990s, and is the largest white supremacist gang in the Utah State prison system. It's known for its involvement in the methamphetamine trade. Law enforcement officials have reported a rash of crimes linked to SAW, particularly identity/mail theft, where personal checks are taken from homes and public letter boxes, then “washed” and forged. Mail theft has increasingly been linked to methamphetamine addicts and white supremacist gangs—more than 30 SAW and Soldiers of Aryan Culture members have been arrested on methamphetamine and mail fraud charges.
Utah's white supremacist groups are not as wedded to racist philosophies as they are to drugs - particularly methamphetamine - and money, two gang experts said Thursday.
"Everything about these guys is just meth, meth and meth," said Ogden police Detective Tony Hansen, a member of the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force. "They're not the neo-Nazis you see on TV."
Hansen and Detective Brent Jex, a West Jordan police officer and member of the Salt Lake Area metro gang unit, spoke Thursday at the 2003 Gang Conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Aimed mainly at law enforcement, the conference is sponsored by the metro gang unit.
There are five major supremacist gangs in Utah — the Soldiers of Aryan Culture, the Silent Aryan Warriors, Fourth Reich, American Peckerwoods and Krieger Verwandt.
Their members are "really into dope and ripping people off" despite their sometimes prominently displayed racist tattoos, Hansen said.
The crimes they commit are more likely to be drug-related than triggered by racism, he said — home invasions to collect owed drug debts, for example. Members have also been known to dabble in identity theft.
And Utah's white supremacists are not averse to hooking up with Latino gangs or those of other races for drug-related business deals. "When it comes to meth, they don't care," Jex said. "It's funny to see how they're trying to portray themselves and how they actually are."
At least one of the groups also sought to align itself with a national white supremacy organization, the World Church of the Creator, Jex said. But "a lot of the national groups are looking at them and saying, 'You guys are a mess,' " he said.
"I have no doubt there are some that have the [white supremacist] belief system," he said. "But they don't follow it."
Utah's white supremacist groups originated in state prisons or jails, mostly during the 1990s, the officers said.
They continue to flourish there today, although some people join the groups for protection in prison and disavow them when released, Hansen said.
- Source: Meth Fuels Supremacist Utah Gangs, The Salt Lake Tribune, Apr. 25, 2003
There are four principal white supremacist groups in Utah: Silent Aryan Warriors (SAW), Soldiers of Aryan Culture (SAC), 4th Reich, and Krieger Verwandt (KV). The origins of these groups can be traced to Utah correctional facilities in the 1990s.
Police say most people who join a white supremacist group in prison do it for protection and survival, not necessarily because they share racist beliefs.
Despite the accusations of violence that surround them, white supremacist members will try to pass off their organizations as nothing more than a fraternity, Johnson said. But, he added, they're only doing that to try to divert attention.
"These people are dangerous," Johnson said. "These groups are not fraternities."
SAC is the biggest Aryan Nation group in Utah — and the most violent, Draper said. There are estimated to be more than 150 SAC members in the state.
Members have established a SAC chapter in Sunset, where many members head after they are paroled, Davis County sheriff's detective Ty Berger said. There are also reports that SAC wants to use Box Elder County as its home base and has secured a compound in a secluded area, Brigham City police Cpl. Jeff Johnson said.
SAW is the second-biggest group, followed by 4th Reich and KV. Because KV isn't as well-organized as the other gangs, Draper said that group is apparently being taken over by 4th Reich. Police say 4th Reich has been the most active in recruiting members in and out of prison.
American Peckerwood and Lone Wolf are two other small white supremacist gangs in Utah that are merging with 4th Reich, according to law enforcers.
- Source: Racist groups catching Utah's eye: Police see rise in activity of white supremacy gangs, Deseret News, Sep. 7, 2002
Criminal exploits turn deadly
On October 9, 2001, members of the Silent Aryan Warriors kidnapped a man in Salt Lake County. The gang members covered his head and upper torso with a sheet, wrapped his wrists and ankles with duct tape, and drove him to a rural area. One gang member dragged the man thirty feet off the road and dropped an eighty-three pound rock on his head, killing him. The police found the gang member who committed the murder. The court then sentenced him to consecutive prison terms of five years to life and fifteen years to life