Arizona’s Continued Law Enforcement Action Against Violent Street Gangs Over 20 gang members and associates charged
NOV 7 -- (Phoenix, AZ) – On November 7, 2007, gang members were once again the target of enforcement action as law enforcement agencies around the Phoenix metropolitan area and Pinal County charged more than 20 gang members and associates.
In January 2007, top law enforcement officials publicly stated their resolve to address street gang violence. During a June 2007 press conference, top law enforcement officials reported that the collaborative investigative efforts on the part of their agencies resulted in more than 90 gang members or associates charged in gang related activity in which individuals conspired together using gang affiliations to facilitate criminal activity.
“Drugs and violence go hand in hand. This deadly combination must be met with combined law enforcement expertise at the local, state, county and federal levels,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Elizabeth W. Kempshall. “DEA is committed to keeping violent drug traffickers off the streets and putting them where they belong—behind bars.”
The FBI Violent Street Gang Task Force, comprised of Phoenix FBI, Phoenix Police Department, Mesa Police Department, Arizona Department of Public Safety, and the Arizona Department of Corrections, in a joint investigation with the Arizona Department of Public Safety Gang Intelligence and Immigration Team Enforcement Mission (GIITEM), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), conducted an enforcement operation today, targeting a drug trafficking conspiracy involving violent gang members, gang associates, and Bulgarian nationals. The operation is the result of an ongoing investigation targeting illegal gang activities and drug trafficking in both Maricopa County and Pinal County, Arizona.
Director Roger Vanderpool of the Arizona Department of Public Safety stated, "These arrests show the resolve of the Arizona Law Enforcement community to eliminate the strangle hold gangs have had on our communities. This operation is a continuation of the law enforcement juggernaut of local, state, and federal agencies to kick gangs out of Arizona and keep them out! More of the same will be occurring all across Arizona. "
In addition to the arrests made, a total of nine search warrants were executed; five in Maricopa County and four in Pinal County. Several seizure warrants were also served, resulting in the seizure of fifteen vehicles, a boat, jet-skis, a motorcycle, four All-terrain vehicles, nine weapons, to include six handguns, one shotgun, and two assault rifles, more than one kilogram of cocaine, more than six pounds of marijuana, and more than $20,000 US currency.
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas stated, “We are pleased to be part of this effort to tackle the Valley's gang problem. Our office has a bureau of prosecutors dedicated to combating gangs and repeat offenders. We will continue to seek hard time for all such criminals.”
The investigation resulted in charges being filed at the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, and the Pinal County Attorney's Office. Ten individuals were indicted on federal charges of Conspiracy to Possess with the Intent to Distribute Cocaine, and more than 13 additional individuals were charged on state drug charges by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and Pinal County Attorney’s Office. This investigation represents the culmination of not only law enforcement cooperation and coordination, but also cooperation and coordination among prosecutor's offices.
In Maricopa County, authorities charged not only individuals linked to violent street gangs, but also Bulgarian nationals linked to organized crime. This investigation dates back to April 2005 in Nebraska where a Nebraska State Trooper conducted a routine traffic stop of a mini van with an Arizona license plate and being driven by Dimitar Trancheff, a Bulgarian national. The trooper arrested Trancheff after finding 20 kilograms of cocaine hidden in the door panels of the vehicle. Trancheff advised authorities that he was transporting the cocaine to Detroit for distribution in an effort to appear cooperative. However, after an in depth investigation it is believed Trancheff was actually transporting the cocaine to the East Coast for shipment to Europe where other Bulgarian crime members were waiting to receive and distribute the shipment.
Though Trancheff was federally charged in Nebraska, he fled the United States while awaiting trial and remains a fugitive today.
Regardless, the investigation continued and expanded into Arizona where authorities discovered a large scale organized Bulgarian crime ring operating to distribute cocaine. One subject indicted last week and who was part of this ring, Borislav Mirchev, was arrested on July 4th, 2007 on charges of Transporting with the Intent to Distribute Cocaine. However, Mirchev bonded out of jail and is believed to be in Bulgaria where he is a fugitive. The FBI has representation in Bulgaria and will continue to work with officials in that country regarding any fugitives from the United States in Bulgaria.
“This operation is an example of the strategic approach that the Department of Justice has taken to combat the international and multi-jurisdictional problem of violent gangs,” said Daniel G. Knauss, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. “We have marshaled our resources and united with our international partners to pursue gang leaders who direct criminal activity as well as members who carry it out.”
In Pinal County, several of the subjects arrested in Eloy and Casa Grande were found to be linked through criminal activity to subjects arrested several weeks ago in the DPS GIITEM investigation codenamed "Enough is Enough." This investigation, launched to curb escalating violence in the Casa Grande area, has resulted in the arrests of dozens of gang members operating in the Casa Grande area.
"This is yet another example on how criminals and their organizations routinely cross jurisdictional boundaries. However, with cooperative task forces such as this, these dangerous criminals are denied safe harbor from where ever they are and held fully accountable. The result is safer communities for everyone”, said Phoenix Public Safety Manager: Jack Harris
Both of these investigations are linked to one another and they highlight the need for continued coordination among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies nationwide and internationally.
Phoenix FBI Special Agent in Charge John Lewis stated, “It cannot be emphasized enough the importance of the multi-agency contributions to this investigation. The federal partners in this operation, ICE and DEA, provided invaluable assistance and leadership to this effort. Of equal importance, the Phoenix Police Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), Mesa Police Department, and the Department of Corrections contributed greatly with manpower and tactical support.”
Today’s enforcement action exemplifies the continued resolve on the part of law enforcement to effectively dismantle violent street gangs. The law enforcement community will continue to move forward and sweep through the Greater Phoenix area to deter gang activity and apprehend those who take part in criminal gang activity. Residents throughout our jurisdictions are encouraged to call Silent Witness, 480-WITNESS, or 602-534-GANG, to report any information concerning gang activity.
It should be noted that an indictment is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
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