Final Defendant in RICO Indictment Targeting East Coast Crips Street Gang Pleads Guilty to Federal RICO and Narcotics Offenses
LOS ANGELES – The 16th and final defendant in a racketeering indictment that targeted the East Coast Crips (ECC) street gang, which claims a large swath of territory in South Los Angeles, pleaded guilty today in United States District Court to federal charges.
Gregory Sutton Jr., 40, of South Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), conspiracy to distribute marijuana and being a felon in possession of a firearm. As a result of the guilty pleas, Sutton, who was an associate of the gang, faces a statutory maximum sentence of 35 years in federal prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell on November 7.
Previously in this case, 15 other ECC members and associates have pleaded guilty, with most of them admitting to being part of the RICO conspiracy. The ECC indictment was the third in a series of racketeering indictments brought by federal grand juries following investigations by the FBI into the criminal activities of Blood and Crips gangs that claim territories in Los Angeles
“Criminal street gangs make their livelihood by distributing narcotics and preying on the people that live in the neighborhoods they claim as territory,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Today’s guilty plea marks the end of one phase of the prosecution of the East Coast Crips, but my office will continue to bring cases like this one seeking to cripple street gangs operating in our community.”
The ECC racketeering indictment arises out of an investigation that started in March 2011 when the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) began looking into the racketeering activities of the gang, which claims a large swath of South Los Angeles running from 1st Street to 190th Street, between the 110 Freeway and Central Avenue. The ECC gang is believed to have approximately 850 members and is comprised of multiple “sets.” According to various court documents, members of the gang engage in a variety of violent crimes, home invasion robberies, firearms violations and the sale of narcotics, including crack cocaine and marijuana. According to court documents, members of the gang routinely engage in the distribution of crack cocaine near elementary schools.
“The successful outcome of this case is the result of a strong partnership among federal and local law enforcement officials and prosecutors utilizing a variety of statutes including RICO,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI will continue to work with local police to identify gangs whose members terrorize their communities with violence and intimidation to further their criminal enterprise.”
Previously in this case, Rashaad Howard, a senior member of the ECC and the lead defendant in the indictment, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate RICO and possession with the intent to distribute crack cocaine. Howard, 38, of South Los Angeles, was sentenced earlier this year to five years in prison by Judge O’Connell.
Many of the other 14 defendants in the indictment who have pleaded guilty have been sentenced to prison terms of as long as 80 months. In addition to Sutton, three other defendants are pending sentencing.
The case against ECC is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Reema El-Amamy of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.