SAN DIEGO (CN) - Twenty-four gangsters in three states trafficked children and women across state lines for sex, sold drugs, robbed and murdered, federal prosecutors said in an indictment unsealed Wednesday; another 22 people were charged in other gang indictments.
The so-called Black Mob and Skanless street gangs joined forces to form the enterprise known as BMS, operating primarily out of San Diego County, according to the 39-page grand jury indictment, which was filed, and sealed, in December 2012. Unlike most gangs, BMS eschews "Crip" and "Blood" associations and tries to get along with both factions, prosecutors said.
On Wednesday FBI agents, San Diego police and others arrested 17 alleged BMS members and associates in San Diego, Arizona and New Jersey. Four other defendants were already in custody on other charges; three remain fugitives.
The men are either "big homies" and "lil homies" within BMS, according to the indictment. All were expected to "hustle" on behalf of BMS, expanding the racket and its illegal profits. Each member focused on a specific aspect of the business: drug trafficking, robberies, extortion and - more recently - prostitution of girls and women, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in the indictment and an accompanying statement.
The three female defendants were known as "bottom bitches," and assisted the BMS pimps, according to the indictment. They allegedly recruited and trained prostitutes and provided logistical support such as computers, online accounts and prepaid credit cards to new recruits and their pimps.
The pimps and bottoms frequented areas where minors congregate, and also used social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to connect with new recruits. They plied girls with alcohol to "manipulate their loyalty and increase productivity," the indictment states.
Once the girls had been trained, the gang's pimps took them to known areas for prostitution, private homes, hotels, and professional sporting events - anywhere with a large customer base. They transported the women and girls all over the United States: Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, Colorado, Texas, New Jersey, New York, Washington D.C., Idaho, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, Florida, Virginia and Kansas, according to the Justice Department.
They branded many of the women with tattoos of their gang monikers, bar codes or pimp names, and traded the women like cattle. All of the 60 sex trafficking victims, including 11 minors, have been offered resources to start their lives over again, according to U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.
"We have rescued scores of sex trafficking victims from the grips of gangsters and we have restored a higher level of safety to the gang's operational base - the community of North Park - and beyond," Duffy said in a statement.
"The kind of sex trafficking described in this indictment is nothing less than modern-day slavery. Unfortunately, more gangs are expanding from traditional pursuits like drug dealing into this lucrative business. These gangsters are preying upon our youth, and we are using every law enforcement resource to keep our children and our communities safe from these predators."
San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne said law enforcement agencies spent "thousands of hours" on intelligence gathering and undercover operations. The indictment provides evidence of the massive investigation, citing 137 specific incidents and crimes allegedly carried out by BMS members since 1995 - everything from murder and drug dealing to throwing gang signs on their Facebook pages.
The Justice Department seeks forfeiture of BMS property, from the mundane - Mercedes Benzes, Cadillacs, gold chains - to grills, gold tooth veneers and chalices known as "pimp cups."
According to the U.S. attorney's statement, the pimps hold award ceremonies known as Players' Balls, where BMS members give each other pimp cups and scepters known as "sticks." The items are typically made of gold and adorned with the pimps' monikers or gang numbers spelled out in jewels.
Officers confiscated six pimp cups from defendant "Lil Q-Tip" Pittman's apartment alone, according to the indictment.
The 24 defendants are listed below.
Defendants Brown, Banks, Dunn, Williams, Grant, Wall, Pittman and Rice face life in prison if convicted of the special allegation of sex trafficking of children.
Defendants Kelly, Martin, Jackson and Stevenson also face life sentences for sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion if convicted.
Defendants Coker and Mitchell could receive life sentences for transporting minors over state lines for the purpose of prostitution.
The other defendants face racketeering charges which carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alessandra Serano signed off on the BMS gang indictment. Besides the FBI and San Diego Police Department, the Department of Homeland Security is credited in the investigation.
Duffy on Wednesday also announced 22 arrests in the ongoing "Operation Corridor" gang investigation, also in San Diego County.
Five indictments and three complaints were unsealed late Wednesday, mostly involving associates of the Mexican Mafia. Six of the 22 defendants were arrested this week. The other 18 defendants already are in state or federal custody - and continuing to operate for the Mexican Mafia from inside prison, prosecutors said.
The indictments charge these defendants with a litany of crimes, including racketeering, drug trafficking, assault, extortion, money laundering and conspiracy to commit murder.
Named as defendants in the first case are Aaron Dwayne Pittman, aka "Q-Tip" and "Lil Q-Tip;" Alvin Bernard Mitchell, aka "A.J." and "Juice;" Robert Banks III, aka "Pimpsy;" Hakeem Tayari Dunn, aka "Hook;" Marcus Anthony Stevenson, aka "OT" and "Lil OT;" Labarron Carnell Coker, aka "L.B.;" Malik Hassan Kelly, aka "Double D;" Harold Randolph Martin, aka "Dump" and "Magic" and "Goldie;" Anthony Dwayne Edmond, aka "Ty;" Tony Brown, aka "Lil Play Doh;" Jakari Deandrez Blake, aka "Kari;" Dante Levell Grant, aka "Stick Up;" Ronald Ledon Jackson, aka "Smac" and "Hunnit;" Jonathan Devon Price, aka "Lil Ty;" Bradley West Reynolds, aka "Lil Goldie;" Akili Lynn Cobb, aka "Cobb;" Antwon Ruason Hollingsworth, aka "Mac Twon;" Christopher Michael Wall, aka "Mac Wall;" Everett Burdette Williams, aka "Polo Flo" and "Florida;" Marcus John Anthony Griffin, aka Money Bagz" and "Tiny Shoob;" Edward Reynolds, aka "Mobbin' Ed;" Nicole Lee Rice; Yasenia Armentaro; and Nadine Davis.
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