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Archive for Saturday, September 29, 2007

Gang members charged with racketeering

September 29, 2007

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— Members of a notorious Wichita street gang have been charged in the first federal racketeering case ever filed in Kansas, the U.S. Attorney's office said Friday.

Two indictments made public Friday charge 28 members of the Crips, alleging a criminal enterprise that included four murders, 11 attempted murders, arson, robbery, drug trafficking and transportation of minors for prostitution.

Prosecutors are using the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, to go after members of the Crips and subsets of the Crips identified as the Neighborhood Crips, the Insane Crips, the Tre Five Sevens, the 19th Streeters and the 17th Streeters.

"Over the years, RICO has been applied to a range of targets across the nation from mafia bosses to Wall Street financiers accused of insider trading," U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren said in a news conference. "Today Kansas joins a growing list of other states who have used the RICO statutes as a tool to fight street gangs."

The indictment charges the Crips with forming a criminal enterprise to engage in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, drive-by shootings and burglaries. It also alleges gang members sought to expand their power through intimidation, threats and assault.

Gang linked to four slayings

"It is the first time that a federal RICO indictment has been brought in Kansas and it is the first time we have targeted a street gang for prosecution, an action which the federal racketeering statutes make possible," Melgren said.

The indictment links the Crips to four slayings: the Feb. 3, 1998, killings of Tisha Jones and Keith James; the Aug. 5, 2004, killing of Umanah Smith; and the July 2, 2006, killing of David Barney.

Jermal Campbell, 25, of Wichita, is charged with one count of violent crime in furtherance of racketeering in Barney's death. Jason Tisdale, 28, is charged with three counts of violent crime in furtherance of racketeering in the other slayings.

"In the past, gang crimes committed in Kansas have been treated as individual events. ... This yearlong investigation has given us a different perspective on a gang problem that we allege is presented by the Crips. Here, our focus has shifted to a pattern of crimes that are formed by their activities," Melgren said.

Alleged members arrested

Named as gang leaders in the indictment are Tommy Anderson Sr., 36; Clinton A.D. Knight, 28, of Wichita; Armand Little, 25, of Wichita; Trena Ridge, 28, of Wichita; Marteaus Carter, 27; Darryn Frierson, 25; Junian Johnson, 31, of Wichita; Troy Langston, 33; Lonnie Wade, 27, of Wichita; and Calvin Williams, 28.

"Members of the Crips have gone into and out of prison repeatedly over the years, but the gang organization itself has survived and its activities continued," Melgren said. "Murder, violence and threats kept victims as well as associates from disrupting the activities and business of the Crips."

Prosecutors said Crips gang members distinguished themselves by wearing baby blue clothing, wearing gang tattoos and using gang hand signals. New members had to voluntarily submit to a ritual beating by other gang members to join the gang and when they left the gang, prosecutors said.

The racketeering statute carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine. Similar penalties are attached to the charges of maintaining a place in furtherance of drug trafficking and murder in furtherance of racketeering. Wire fraud and assault with a dangerous weapon carry penalties of up to 20 years and a fine up to $250,000.

The government is also seeking forfeiture of at least two houses cited in the indictment, vehicles and cash.

Police had arrested most of the 28 alleged gang members by late Friday afternoon.

"The Wichita Police Department is aggressively investigating the gang organizations that are committing criminal activities in our community," Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams said in a news release. "We will pursue criminal charges either in district court or in federal court as we strive to make Wichita a safe and secure community."

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