Feds cite 'devastating' blow to Aryan prison gang in Texas
Nov 09, 2012 (Houston Chronicle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Federal prosecutors and agents say they've dismantled the leadership of the violent Aryan Brotherhood of Texas prison gang, charging 34 members with racketeering activities for crimes including murder, kidnapping, arson, gambling and trafficking in methamphetamine and cocaine.
Three homicides were attributed to the white-supremacist gang members, including the killing of gang associate Aaron Wade Otto, 27, whose bullet-riddled body was found in November 2001 near the Houston Ship Channel, authorities said.
Otto's slaying was solved by the Harris County Sheriff's Office cold case unit and forms part of federal charges brought against three gang members named in the indictment.
Nearly 170 law officers across Texas and in North Carolina were involved in a roundup of 20 gang members who were not already in prison, said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny Breuer.
"Today's operations represent a devastating blow to the leadership of ABT," said Breuer, adding the new charges unsealed Friday bring to 72 the number of gang members who have been charged with federal crimes.
"Brutal beatings, fire bombings, drug trafficking and murder are all part of ABT's alleged standard operating procedures," Breuer said. "As charged, ABT used violence and threats of violence to maintain internal discipline and retaliate against those believed to be cooperating with law enforcement."
One leader, Kelley Ray Elley, 36, whose gang name was "Magic," ordered the murder of a recruit and told the killers to make the hit "as messy as possible" as a way of intimidating other members from cooperating with police, Breuer said. Elley ordered the gang members to remove the prospect's finger and return it to him as a trophy, the indictment charged.
Gang violence included a July 28, 2010, incident in which three members used a blow torch to burn off an Ayran Brotherhood tattoo from a member's arm, punishment for refusing an order, the indictment charged.
Authorities say the indictment charges four of the gang's five Texas generals with federal racketeering activities. They are Terry Ross Blake, 55, known as "Big Terry"; Larry Max Bryan, 51, called "Slick"; William David Maynard, 42, known as "Baby Huey"; and Charles Lee Roberts, 68, known as "Jive." Charges were also filed against 13 other alleged leaders, and many other members and associates.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives began focusing on gang members three years ago.
The Aryan Brotherhood has about 2,600 members in Texas prisons and another 180 in federal prisons, the ATF said.
FBI Special Agent Stephen Morris, who heads the Houston Field Division, said a combined effort by federal agencies, Houston area police forces and prosecutors were employed to target the gang.
"A conscious effort was made to go after the worst of the worst," said Morris. "You've heard people talk about how, in order to kill a snake, you have to cut its head off and that's what this team has done."
Of the 34 charged, 17 were arrested by late Friday and another 14 are currently in prison on other charges, FBI Special Agent Shauna Dunlap said. The remaining three fugitives are in the Dallas area, she said.
So far, three gang members have been arrested in Houston, one in Beaumont, four in San Antonio, six in Dallas and one each in Brownsville, Corpus Christi and North Carolina, the FBI said.
The federal crackdown on the prison gang was welcomed by the Houston chapter of the Anti-defamation League, who have been monitoring the Brotherhood's violence for years.
"ADL has been aware of the Texas Aryan Brotherhood for years, and is all too familiar with the violent and dangerous activity of many members of this white-supremacist prison gang," said Martin B. Cominsky, southwest regional director for the agency.
The gang was formed in the 1980s among inmates serving time in the Texas prison system and offers protection to white prison inmates who join. The gang leadership organization is modeled on a military hierarchy structure, and the top leaders hold the rank of general, with majors, captain and lieutenants running the organization in and outside of Texas prison, the indictment states.
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