Justice News

Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer Speaks at Press Conference to Announce Charges Against Alleged Aryan Brotherhood of Texas Leaders
Houston, TX
United States
Friday, November 9, 2012

Good afternoon.  Today, I am pleased to join U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Special Agent in Charge Melvin King, Special Agent in Charge Stephen Morris and numerous other federal, state and local law enforcement partners to announce a landmark indictment against the top leadership of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, or ABT – a violent and highly structured criminal enterprise operating throughout the state.

Earlier today, over 170 law enforcement agents swept across Texas and North Carolina, and arrested 14 of the 34 ABT members and associates named in the indictment.  Fifteen defendants are already in custody, and five defendants remain at large.  Today’s operations represent years of work by Justice Department prosecutors and agents in Washington, D.C., Texas and Oklahoma, and by our partners in state and local law enforcement.  With this indictment, we have charged or convicted 72 ABT members and associates in federal court. 

Today’s indictment represents a devastating blow to the leadership of ABT.  As charged, ABT was founded in the 1980s as a “whites only,” prison-based gang and is governed by a “constitution” that establishes a military-style organizational structure and a rigid code of conduct for gang members.  At the top are five “generals,” each of whom is responsible for a different region in Texas.  Together, these “generals” comprise a steering committee known as the “wheel.” 

Four ABT generals are named in today’s indictment.  Thirteen other alleged ABT leaders – with the rank of “major,” “captain” or “lieutenant” – are also being charged today, along with numerous other gang members and associates.

Brutal beatings, fire bombings, drug trafficking and murder, are all part of ABT’s alleged standard operating procedure.  As charged, ABT uses violence and threats of violence to maintain internal discipline, and to retaliate against those believed to be cooperating with law enforcement. 

As an example, according to the indictment, alleged ABT leader Kelly Ray Elley and others ordered subordinates to kill a prospective ABT member, and to make the killing “as messy as possible,” in order to send a message to gang members not to cooperate with law enforcement.  Mr. Elley also allegedly ordered gang members to return the prospect’s severed finger as a trophy.

As another example, three named defendants allegedly burned an ABT tattoo off the arm of a fellow gang member because he failed to carry out a direct order.

The indictment further alleges three specific murders – one in 2001, one in 2002 and one in 2008 – along with kidnappings, cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking, and other crimes.

ABT, like other violent gangs, wreaks havoc – throughout the communities it terrorizes and in the lives of its members.  Through violence and intimidation, ABT exerts control over prison populations and neighborhoods, and instills fear in those who come in contact with its members.  The Criminal Division is determined, with its federal, state and local law enforcement partners, to continue disrupting and dismantling ABT and other violent criminal enterprises. 

I am exceptionally proud of the prosecutors and agents who carried out today’s law enforcement operations and am privileged now to turn things over to my friend and colleague U.S. Attorney Magidson.  Thank you.

Updated September 17, 2014