Good morning. I am pleased to be here today with my friend, U.S. Attorney Birotte, and our law enforcement partners to announce these indictments, and the arrest of more than 80 members and associates of transnational organized crime groups, including a particularly powerful one based here in California. Indictments involving members of these violent groups were unsealed today, charging 102 defendants in four cities: Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Miami, and Denver.
The California indictments charge more than 80 defendants, many of whom are associated with the Armenian Power street gang. Today’s actions represent the largest enforcement action to date against Armenian Power, as charged in the indictment, a violent criminal enterprise that thrives on intimidation and fear, and profits from a diverse range of crimes. These defendants are charged with assault, robbery, kidnapping, narcotics and firearms trafficking, as well as various forms of financial fraud.
The crimes alleged in these indictments were calculated, wide-ranging, and sophisticated. Armenian Power’s influence has grown over the past two decades. The enterprise’s members have formed alliances with other gangs, such as the Mexican Mafia. Their alleged ties transcend prison walls and international borders, reaching all the way to various former Soviet bloc countries.
The California indictments allege more than 400 criminal acts intended to further Armenian Powers’ racketeering enterprise. Looking at the allegations over just one short span of time – from August to November of 2009 – shows how central violence and fear are to this group’s activities. From alleged armed business meetings meant to settle disputes to negotiating the sale of fire arms, the use of violence is never off the table for this group. In one instance, members allegedly kidnapped a local businessman and demanded $500,000 for his release. They even allegedly joked, as they threatened him, that he might die of a heart attack.
As charged, members of these organized crime groups and their associates not only trade in violence, but they also perpetrate large-scale fraudulent schemes. In Miami, 13 alleged members of an Armenian organized crime group are charged with committing a series of financial and health care frauds, extortion conspiracies and money laundering offenses. In Denver, another defendant associated with a transnational criminal group allegedly engaged in a bank fraud scheme over a ten-month period that resulted in approximately $400,000 in losses.
These cases, coupled with the largest one-day takedown ever against the mob ever, which was announced last month, and the nationwide enforcement actions against gangs announced just last week, are stark evidence of this Justice Department’s commitment to fighting all forms of organized crime. We are committed. We are focused. And we are not going away.
In September 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder issued an order directing the Department’s Criminal Division, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and the FBI to ensure that they are focusing on attacking domestic and international organized crime threats. Toward this end, I previously announced plans to merge the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section with our Gang Unit. These prosecutors have specific experience in prosecuting organized criminal enterprises, and with this new section, we’ll be able to use their expertise against a broad spectrum of criminal groups, in partnership with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices.
We’re also using new tools in this fight, including the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center, or IOC-2, which allows prosecutors and agents to coordinate across jurisdictions to target the illegal activities of a group operating in more than one city. Federal, state, and local agents and prosecutors are synchronizing their efforts, and we are using every available technique to investigate these cases, including Title III wiretaps and consensual recordings.
These groups bring fear into our communities, defraud innocent victims and put the safety of our neighborhoods at risk. Today’s arrests and charges are an important step forward in the fight against organized criminal enterprises. As investigations continue, our intent should be clear: to rid our communities of the influence of domestic and international organized crime. Our citizens deserve no less.
I’ll now turn it over to FBI Assistant Director in Charge Steve Martinez.