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Denny Kandt, a main suspect busted in 'Operation Northern Exposure' going to federal prison

Posted at 2:20 PM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 16:20:08-04

SALT LAKE CITY — One of two main suspects in a massive drug dealing operation is heading to federal prison.

Danny Kandt was one of 33 people busted last year during “Operation Northern Exposure.”

U.S. Attorney for Utah, John Huber, spoke exclusively with FOX 13’s Scott McKane Wednesday.

He said Kandt’s plea deal is a big deal because it sends him to a federal prison out of state and, at least temporarily, disrupts the flow of drugs into Utah.

Gang detectives and federal agents say Kandt, aka “Casper,” is one of two Salt Lake area men who ran an operation that brought large amounts of heroin and meth from Mexico into Utah.

Most of the cash proceeds were returned to cartels in Mexico.

The case reads like something out of a crime novel or movie, with prosecutors securing wire taps which have the principal suspects, on tape, making numerous drug deals directly with cartel members in California and Mexico.

Kandt originally faced numerous felonies which could have landed him in prison for life if he’d been convicted at trial.

But after a year of negotiations, stipulations and motions, Kandt and his attorney agreed to a plea deal of 10 years in federal prison.

“The evidence in the case against Denny Kandt was overwhelming, he had no choice but to face the music in his life,” Huber said. “He’s wiggled out of and been released on probation, been through a revolving door through the state court system for years of his adult life. Those times are over. That revolving door -- if it hasn’t stopped -- it has slowed to a crawl and it will be a long time before he’s out wreaking havoc in Utah again.”

Huber is referring to Kandt’s earlier, criminal career as an active gang member on Salt Lake City west side.

In the early 1990s, Casper was the self-proclaimed leader of The Diamond Street Gang.

The other alleged kingpin in “Operation Northern Exposure,” Joe Gomez, also known as “Norte Joe,” is taking his case to trial.

Kandt is sitting in the Weber County jail awaiting sentencing in September where he will find out which federal prison he’ll be heading off to for the next 120 months.