News and Press Releases

Latest Success of ATF Sponsored Violent Gang Task Force

February 1, 2007

A Federal Grand Jury in Seattle this week returned an indictment against an alleged member and an associate of the Norteno street gang. This is the latest step in a two month investigation by members of the ATF Violent Gang Task Force. During the course of the investigation agents seized a stolen semi-automatic Uzi rifle, a stolen revolver and six kilos of cocaine worth more than $100,000.

The Norteno street gang is notorious nationwide. The gang members are predominately Hispanic, and the roots of the gang are in California. Law enforcement has seen Nortenos becoming more active in the Seattle area and in Yakima.

The Department of Justice is focusing resources and attention on gang violence. “With this case we are not only taking dangerous weapons off the street, but dangerous drugs as well,” said United States Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan. “That cocaine would not only destroy lives and feed addictions, it would pay for the gang’s violent activities that put all of us at risk.”

“The Nortenos are distributing narcotics throughout the State of Washington, and are using guns to further their criminal activities,” says Special Agent in Charge Kelvin N. Crenshaw, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “This investigation is the result of tremendous hard work from dedicated investigators, who care about the safety of our communities.”

On January 18, 2007, agents with the Violent Gang Task Force developed information that EDWARD MARTINEZ, 21, of Yakima, Washington and CODY HIGGENBOTHAM, 20, of south King County were conducting a major drug deal at a house in Snohomish County. The men entered the house with a large brown paper bag. Inside the bag agents with the Violent Gang Task Force later found six “bricks” of cocaine – the total weight was 6.4 kg. Both men were arrested and are being detained at the Federal Detention Center at Sea-Tac. They will be arraigned on a charge of Distribution of Cocaine on February 8, 2007. If convicted, both men face a mandatory minimum ten years in prison.

An indictment contains allegations that have not yet been proven at trial beyond a reasonable doubt. Assistant United States Attorneys Andrew Friedman and Jill Otake are prosecuting the case.

This case is just the latest in efforts by federal law enforcement to curb the activities of violent street gangs. Among recent successes are efforts to dismantle the East African Posse (EAP) linked to numerous crimes, including a fatal shooting in Seattle’s University District. To date 19 people have been charged in connection with the EAP and 18 have either pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial. Sentences in the case have ranged from three years to ten years in prison. Both the EAP and Norteno cases are being investigated by the ATF Violent Gang Task Force with officers and agents from the Seattle Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and Washington State Department of Corrections.

In Pierce County, the last charged member of the Seven Deuce Mob was recently sentenced to 17 years in prison. Lionel Irving also admitted to the 1999 homicide of 14-year-old Tommy Brock. The rival gang member was hit by a shot fired by Irving during a gang related drive by shooting. Members of the Seven Deuce Mob have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from three years to 19 years in prison, with most sentenced to more than ten years behind bars. The Pierce County Violent Crimes Task Force investigated the Seven Deuce Mob. The Task Force contains agents and officers from ATF, FBI, Tacoma Police Department, Lakewood Police Department and the Washington State Department of Corrections.

For more information on these prosecutions please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Office for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

For information of the ATF Violent Gang Task Force, please call Julianne Marshall, Public Information Officer for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives at (206) 389-5876.

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