NEW YORK – New York City police and federal agents said Thursday they dismantled a violent street gang that terrorized residents, made big bucks off drugs and robberies and left a trail of bodies in its wake.
A 75-count indictment unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn accuses more than a dozen members of the Outlaw Gangsta Crips with crimes including racketeering conspiracy, murder conspiracy and attempted murder. In one scheme, the gang — a subgroup of the Crips street gang — created phony checks from actual paychecks, deposited them into bank accounts and then withdrew the money, making more than $500,000, officials said. They say officers thwarted a homicide after a wiretap revealed a plan to kill two people. And the gang allegedly sold drugs at double their value in Connecticut and West Virginia.
"In law enforcement we always say there's a very small percentage of the population responsible for a large percentage of the crime," Deputy Chief Kevin Catalina, head of the New York Police Department's gang unit within the organized crime division, told The Associated Press. He said agents drilled down to find that percentage: "What we've been successful at doing is identifying them and targeting them."
The case was worked using old-fashioned police work from undercover officers to surveillance and wiretaps, as well as social media and new technology. Federal and city law enforcement working together brought the case. Catalina said the NYPD is drawing together sharp minds from different bureaus, including beat cops, to better tamp down crime.
"We're really better at these investigations than we've ever been," he said. "And it's really Commissioner (William) Bratton's mantra from the beginning: 'I want people to collaborate and I want people to work together,' and we've been very successful."
Officers recovered seven firearms and a kilogram during raids on Thursday.
"We've removed the worst of the worst," Catalina said.
The crew was based in and around the East Flatbush neighborhood, a section of Brooklyn that sees some of the most violent crime in the borough. So far this year there have been 8 homicides, 24 shootings and 217 robberies. Citywide, there have been 168 homicides, 566 shootings and 7,796 robberies.
Thirteen defendants were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon in Brooklyn federal court. One suspect was arraigned in West Virginia and another was to appear in court in Atlanta. Others are at large and the investigation continues.
"The profits OGC allegedly obtained by peddling poison and committing bank fraud allowed them to purchase weapons in support of their illegal operations," FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Diego Rodriguez said. Their crimes "run the gamut from racketeering conspiracy and drug distribution to robbery, assault, murder conspiracies, and attempts."