Attorney General Mukasey Announces Charges Against Los Angeles Gang Members and The Formation Of An Additional Safe Streets Task Force To Combat Gang Violence
MAR 26 -- (Los Angeles, CA) – Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, joined today by Timothy Landrum, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton and U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien, announced the results of a joint law enforcement operation targeting gang activity in the Central District of California as well as the formation of an additional FBI-sponsored Safe Streets Task Force to combat gang violence in communities north of Los Angeles.
A 10-count indictment unsealed today in the Central District of California charges 12 members and associates of the “Grape Street Crips” gang with participating in a conspiracy to manufacture and distribute large quantities of the drug phencyclidine, also known as PCP, in the Watts area of Los Angeles, as well as across the region and in other parts of the United States. The indictment was returned last week by a federal grand jury.
A second indictment, also unsealed this morning in the Central District of California, charges a 13th individual, also a member of the Grape Street Crips gang, with distribution of PCP in the Watts area.
Authorities arrested four of the defendants this morning, and another five were previously taken into custody on other federal and state charges.
These indictments and arrests resulted from several long-term investigations conducted by the FBI; the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration: the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Los Angeles Police Department and several other local law enforcement agencies.
"For too many of our citizens, gangs and the damage they do to their communities are painful features of daily life," said Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey. "That must not be allowed to go on, and so the fight against gangs, and the violence they breed, is one of the top priorities of the Department of Justice. Today's action demonstrates our commitment to using every tool at our disposal to strike a blow against this kind of gang activity."
United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien said: "In the last six months, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of federal gang prosecutions – cases that would not have been possible without the ever-increasing cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies. The indictment of the Grape Street Crips members is the latest example of collaborative law enforcement efforts that in recent months have led to significant cases against gangs such as 18th Street and MS-13. Continuing to improve relationships among all levels of law enforcement is one of my highest priorities."
The investigation resulted in several significant seizures of PCP and hundreds of gallons of highly toxic precursor chemicals used to manufacture PCP. Authorities also seized a clandestine lab in the remote desert of Landers, Calif., while lab operators were in the midst of an ongoing PCP “cook” that would have likely yielded more than 54 kilograms of PCP – ultimately resulting in more than 40 gallons of PCP for distribution, with a street value well in excess of $1 million. As alleged in the indictment, one gallon of PCP was routinely sold by defendants for at least $10,000 wholesale value during the course of the conspiracy. Because of the scale of this drug ring, today's action is expected to have a significant impact on the local PCP trade.
According to the 10-count indictment, the PCP manufacturing and distribution ring was led by Alphonso Eugene Foster, 38, a senior member of the Grape Street Crips, along with Kim Vernell Walker, 45, a long-time member of the Santana Block Crips. Foster and Walker allegedly obtained precursor chemicals used to manufacture PCP, then “cooked” the PCP and arranged for its distribution throughout Watts, across the region and in other parts of the United States.
During the course of the conspiracy, Foster and Walker maintained and controlled the clandestine lab in Landers, Calif., as well as “S&W Graffiti Removal,” a business in the City of San Bernardino, Calif., that was used as a front to obtain and store precursor chemicals. Also during the conspiracy, the Watts residence of Michael Edward Baker, 33, a member of the Grape Street Crips, and his wife/girlfriend, Latera Kyesha Lashana Odom, 25, was used as a “stash” house and central PCP distribution location.
The defendants charged in the primary 10-count indictment are as follows:
The defendant charged in the second indictment is:
All of the defendants are from Los Angeles. The defendants arrested today will make their initial court appearances this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. The defendants charged in the primary 10-count indictment face potential life sentences if convicted. Defendant Robinzine, the defendant charged by separate indictment, is charged with one substantive count involving the distribution of PCP in the Watts area and faces a potential sentence of 20 years imprisonment.
“I want to thank Judge Mukasey and the Department of Justice for working to address the serious problem of gun and gang violence here in Los Angeles,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “Federal enforcement and resources are absolutely critical to our effort to keep guns and drugs out of our communities and our kids off the streets and out of gangs.”
Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said: “Working together with state and federal agencies, we are demonstrating the positive impact we can make on criminal organizations like the Grape Street Crips. We are committed to inter-agency cooperation as this effort has proven to be both productive and beneficial to our communities.”
Timothy Landrum, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, commented: “The Los Angeles area continues to be exposed to violence fueled by drugs and street. Street gangs and their drug trafficking organizations dominate the manufacturing and distribution of PCP not only in Los Angeles, but throughout the country. Through collaborative operations such as this, we are able to focus on those organizations and individuals who supply the gangs and bring them to justice. DEA and our HIDTA task force remain fully committed to working with our law enforcement partners to free our communities from dangerous drugs and violence.”
John A. Torres, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF in Los Angeles, stated: “ATF’s participation in this investigation and today’s arrests highlights our commitment to dismantle dangerously armed street gangs in the Los Angeles area. We will not allow them to victimize our neighborhoods and through our federal, state and local law enforcement partnerships vow to continue dismantling these gangs that plague our streets and communities with the full impact of the justice system.”
The charges contained in these indictments are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
New Safe Streets Task Forces
Also at the press conference today, Attorney General Mukasey announced that the Department is forming a new FBI Safe Streets Task Force that will operate in the Central District of California. The additional task force brings the total number of Safe Streets Task Forces in the Central District of California to six.
“A sixth Safe Streets Task Force is being created within the 7 counties that comprise the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office territory,” said Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. “Safe Streets Task Forces, multi-jurisdictional, coordinated efforts by the FBI and its many partners in local law enforcement, conduct long-term investigations of gangs and other violent groups plaguing our communities. This continuing proactive effort aims to disrupt, then dismantle, criminal enterprises operating in Southern California.”
Since January 1992, the FBI the Safe Streets Violent Crime Initiative has grown to include 185 task forces across the nation. This program allows each FBI Field Division to address violent street gangs and drug-related violence through the establishment of FBI sponsored, long-term, proactive task forces focusing on violent gangs, crimes of violence, and the apprehension of violent fugitives.
The Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force became the vehicle through which federal, state and local law enforcement agencies joined together to address violent crime plaguing their communities. The FBI’s Safe Streets and Gang Unit administers 144 Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Forces nationwide.
Today’s announcements reflect the Justice Department’s significant commitment to combating violent gangs with our state and local law enforcement partners across the nation.
In the last few years, the Department has taken several important steps to address the prevalence of gang violence. First, the Department established an Anti-Gang Coordination Committee to organize the Department’s wide-ranging efforts to combat gangs. Second, each United States Attorney has appointed an Anti-Gang Coordinator to provide leadership and focus to our anti-gang efforts at the district level. Finally, the Anti-Gang Coordinators, in consultation with their state and local law enforcement and community partners, have developed comprehensive, district-wide strategies to address the gang problems in their districts.
As another example in Los Angeles of the Justice Department’s commitment to combating violent gangs, the Department of Justice has awarded more than $15.5 million dollars in grant funds to support the Los Angeles comprehensive gang-reduction strategy, including prevention, intervention, and re-entry programs as well as enforcement and suppression.
# # #