Feds, Local Cops Make Massive Takedown of Notorious LA Gang
Seventy members and associates of the Drew Street clique of the Avenues gang have been named in a federal racketeering indictment unsealed on June 25 that alleges a long series of narcotics-related offenses and violent crimes -- including murder, attacks against police officers, witness intimidation and extortion of local businesses.
The charges that could bring life-without-parole prison sentences for some of the gang members, according to police officers involved in the case.
During a massive law enforcement operation involving more than 500 officers from a host of federal, state, and local agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, the Glendale Police Department, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and other agencies, authorities arrested 28 defendants on the criminal charges, and another four on immigration charges. Twenty-six of the suspects were already in state and federal custody. Meanwhile, officers and agents continue to search for 16 of the suspects named in the indictment.
"[This case] highlights a progressive law enforcement model in which federal authorities join with their local counterparts to quickly investigate and charge significant numbers of gang members in order to remove them from neighborhoods they have plagued for long periods of time," said United States Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien.
The gang problem in and around Drew Street received substantial attention earlier this year when several members of the gang murdered a rival gang member who was walking with his two-year-old granddaughter and later engaged in a shootout with Los Angeles Police officers. These shooting incidents are alleged as racketeering acts in the indictment.
According to the 157-page indictment returned by a federal grand jury on June 12 but unsealed on June 25, members and associates of the Drew Street gang are part of a criminal enterprise that, at its heart, is a violent, drug-trafficking organization. The Drew Street clique is part of the Avenues street gang in northeast Los Angeles, and is alleged to control drug-trafficking activity and, to a significant degree, all manner of life, in the area surrounding the intersection of Drew Street and Estara Avenue.
The criminal organization allegedly operates and maintains its control through attacks directed at law enforcement, intimidation, extortion, and robberies and murders of both rival gang members and innocent members of the general public.
The leadership of the Drew Street gang -- notably "shot-caller" Francisco "Pancho" Real, 26, who is the lead defendant in the indictment -- collected "taxes" from those who sell narcotics in the neighborhood, according to the indictment. A portion of the taxes is then paid by gang leaders to the Mexican Mafia.
Drew Street gang members also allegedly raise funds for the Mexican Mafia by conducting armed home-invasion robberies and collecting extortion payments from area businesses. The Mexican Mafia allegedly authorized Francisco Real to take control of the Drew Street clique less than a year ago.
Francisco Real allegedly demanded a $30,000 extortion payment from the owners of two businesses in the neighborhood in March. When one victim balked, Francisco Real stated that their businesses were in his territory, according to the indictment. Later, Francisco Real and two associates allegedly drove to one of the businesses and told a victim that Francisco Real controlled the area and the victim was required to pay $30,000 or Francisco Real would kill him and burn his businesses.
Fifty-one defendants are named in the first count, which alleges violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The charge alleges that the Drew Street gang is a criminal enterprise designed to distribute crack cocaine, powder cocaine and methamphetamine. The RICO charge also alleges a host of criminal activities designed to preserve the power of the Drew Street gang, crimes such as murder, witness intimidation and attacks on police. The first racketeering charge alleges 87 racketeering acts, with more than half of those acts occurring in 2008 alone.
In addition to the criminal case, the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office has filed civil actions -- nuisance abatement lawsuits -- seeking injunctive relief for nine properties on Drew Street and one located a block away on Chapman Street. The lawsuits are designed to bring to the properties armed security guards, security cameras, strict tenant screening measures and evictions of individuals involved in narcotics activities. The lawsuits also seek orders directing property owners to reside in their properties, attend neighborhood watch meetings, and provide regular maintenance.
"Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies are working together every day to put criminal street gangs out of business and return our neighborhoods to our law-abiding residents," said City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. "[This] operation represents the largest scale use of property abatement actions against a street gang in the history of Los Angeles," he added.
"Today's joint city, state and federal agency operation is the first phase of a three-step plan to restore hope and revitalize a residential and business community," said Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton, who previously served as police commissioner in New York City.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.