WASHINGTON – Forty-one members of various street gangs have been charged in indictments or criminal complaints unsealed today in five judicial districts, the Department of Justice announced today.
The federal indictments and complaints unsealed today charge members and associates of a variety of street gangs, including:
· Seven members of the Click Clack gang in Kansas City, Mo;
· 12 Colonias Chiques gang members in Los Angeles;
· Two members and associates of the Sureno13 and San Chucos gangs in Las Vegas;
· Seven MS-13 members in Washington;
· 13 Tri-City Bomber members and associates in the McAllen, Texas, area.
The charges in these separate cases relate to a wide range of alleged illegal activity, including racketeering conspiracy, murder, murder conspiracy, narcotics trafficking, robbery and gun trafficking. The defendants will make initial court appearances in the respective districts in which they are charged. Teams of federal, state and local law enforcement officers have today arrested 29 of these defendants, with additional arrests expected.
“Gangs threaten the safety and stability of neighborhoods across our nation,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division. “Gangs spread fear in our communities, trading in guns, drugs, and violence, and they cause too many young people to choose lives of crime. The Justice Department is fighting back, against both local street gangs and large organized criminal enterprises with international reach. With the coordinated enforcement actions announced today, we are sending an unmistakable message -- that we are committed to dismantling gangs both large and small, and from coast to coast.”
“Although these cases are in different parts of the country, they illustrate the common threats gang members pose to our communities,” said Assistant Director Kevin Perkins of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Gangs were once found in big cities, but their operations are now migrating to rural areas. The types of offenses gang members commit are also changing, from drug running and petty crimes to home invasions and health care fraud. The FBI will use our task forces, undercover operations, and enhanced surveillance techniques to dismantle gangs to restore order to neighborhoods they terrorize.”
“Firearms trafficking and gang-related violent crime go hand in hand. Guns are the tools of the trade to intimidate and murder innocent citizens and rivals,” said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ( ATF) Acting Director Kenneth Melson. “Enforcement initiatives like today’s place an emphasis on ending gang violence that erodes the quality of life in neighborhoods by putting criminal offenders behind bars for a long time.”
“ICE’s work continues to have a significant impact on some of the most ruthless gangs in the country,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton. “Gangs thrive on violence, violence that is often fueled by profits from their illegal activities. Our goal in targeting these dangerous street gangs is to disrupt their criminal activities and ultimately to dismantle entire organizations.”
In the Washington indictment of MS-13 members (U.S. v. Carlos Silva, et al) the seven defendants added in the superseding indictment are charged with RICO conspiracy and other offenses including two murders, armed robbery, sexual abuse while armed, kidnapping and obstructing justice. The indictment alleges that between 2008 and 2010, MS-13 members sent money to gang leaders in El Salvador , as well as participated in the stabbing of rival gang members and kidnapping, among other crimes.
The Houston indictment (U.S. v. Jeffrey Juarez, et al) of the Tri-City Bombers charges 13 individuals with conspiring to sell cocaine and ecstasy and with firearm-related offenses. The nine Los Angeles indictments (U.S. v. Soto Martinez; U.S. v. Castellon and Reynosa; and U.S. v. Bravo, U.S. v. Jaime Garcia; U.S. v. Moises Limon; U.S. v. Luis Rodriguez; U.S. v. Blanco and Avalos; U.S. v. Villa and Melena; U.S. v. Espinosa) involving the Colonia Chiques gang in Oxnard, Calif., charge 12 members with trafficking methamphetamine, crack cocaine and heroin. Additional Colonia Chiques members have been charged in California state court.
In the Kansas City indictment (U.S. v. Kevion Darnell Bifford, et al) seven members of the Click Clack gang are charged for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and for illegally possessing firearms. According to court documents, the gang derives its name from the sound of cocking a gun or “racking the slide” (putting a round into the chamber) of a semi-automatic handgun. During the investigation, law enforcement officers recovered more than 20 firearms, as well as narcotics and cash.
The Las Vegas indictment (U.S. v. Jesus Guadalupe Felix Burgos, et al) charges two gang members and others with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and distribution of methamphetamine from July 2009 to the present.
In addition to today’s enforcement actions, during the past eight days federal prosecutors have charged 53 members of the 38th Street gang in Los Angeles, and three members of the Crips, Bloods and Gangster Disciples in Memphis with federal crimes, as well as added charges in a superseding indictment against 12 Blood gang members in Bridgeport, Conn. In Boston, a Fayston/Brunswick gang member and an MS-13 member each were charged with firearms offenses, and a Mozart Street gang member was arrested on a firearms charge. In addition, an MS-13 member was arrested in Alexandria, Va., on federal charges.
The charges carry a variety of maximum penalties, including up to life in prison on certain charges. The charges announced today are merely allegations, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
Since Feb. 1, 2011, additional charges against gang members have also been resolved in court, including: guilty pleas on Feb. 1 and 2, 2011, by four Crips members in Pittsburgh, Penn; a guilty plea by a Bloods member in Nashville, Tenn., on Feb. 8, 2011; a guilty plea by a Latin Kings leader on Feb. 3, 2011, in Greenbelt, Md.; and a life prison sentence imposed on a Grape Street Crips gang leader in Los Angeles for drug trafficking convictions. In San Francisco, two MS-13 members each were sentenced on Feb. 8, 2011, to 20 years in prison for their gang-related crimes. Also on Feb. 8, 2011, a Montes Park gang member was sentenced in Boston to 15 years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Finally, on Feb. 3, 2011, a Cathedral gang member in Boston was sentenced to 21 months in prison for cocaine distribution.
In total, 112 new defendants have been arrested, charged, pleaded guilty or been sentenced in February 2011 as part of the department’s ongoing efforts to combat gangs and gang-related violence in the United States.
Addressing gangs and gang-related violence is one of the department’s top priorities. The National Gang Targeting, Enforcement & Coordination Center or GangTECC, is a multi-agency effort designed to unify federal efforts to disrupt and dismantle the most significant and violent gangs in the United States through case coordination and strategic intelligence. GangTECC, in partnership with the Special Operations Division, provided support for today’s announcement.
In addition to prosecuting gang members and associates for their alleged crimes, the department works to promote gang and youth violence prevention efforts and programs in communities. Programs like Project Safe Neighborhood – a program among U.S. Attorneys’ Offices throughout the country – also work to reduce violent crime by combining community-based policing, strategic prosecution and anti-crime initiatives with the resources of social service providers, educational systems and charitable foundations.
The department is also working to reduce childhood exposure to violence and raise awareness of its ramifications, while also advancing understandings of its causes and characteristics and countering its negative impact. In addition, the Sentencing and Corrections Working Group is reviewing federal sentencing practices and determine how to better prepare federal prisoners to transition back into their communities. Attorney General Eric Holder also recently convened the inaugural meeting of the Cabinet-level “Reentry Council” in Washington to identify and to advance effective public safety and prisoner reentry strategies.
In addition, the Criminal Division has announced efforts to merge its Gang Unit and Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, bringing together an elite group of prosecutors with extensive knowledge and experience in combating criminal groups.
The charged defendants will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys from each of the respective districts in which the cases were brought. The cases charged in Washington; Greenbelt, Md.; Nashville, Pittsburgh and San Francisco are also being prosecuted by trial attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Gang Unit.
The cases were variously investigated by the numerous field offices of the FBI, ATF, and ICE Homeland Security Investigations, as well as numerous additional federal, state and local partners.
A copy of the department’s survey on children’s exposure to violence can be found at: www.ojp.usdoj.gov/newsroom/pressreleases/2009/ojjdp09162.htm