Authorities claim a nearly five-year investigation has tied the leaders of the gang to at least five inmate murders along with a multi-state heroin and methamphetamine drug ring they believe was propped by a lawyer and others on the outside.
U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott called the arrests a “significant blow” to the notorious prison gang that was founded in the 1960s.
“Despite the incarceration of its leaders in the state’s most secure prisons, the Aryan Brotherhood has maintained its deadly influence over members, associates and others both inside and outside prison walls,” Scott said in a statement. “The charges allege multiple murders of those who run afoul of the gang, as well as an active drug trafficking operation that spans multiple counties and states.”
According to the unsealed complaint filed in Sacramento federal court, nine male inmates – six already serving life sentences for murder – were arrested on charges ranging from murder to drug trafficking. Officials also arrested five other Californians and warrants have been issued for two others.
Wiretaps captured the defendants plotting murders and giving drug trafficking orders on cellphones that authorities say were smuggled in by a lawyer and a delivery driver.
According to the complaint, inmates Ronald Yandell, 56 and William Sylvester, 51, used the cellphones to push drugs south from Sacramento to Southern California, and east to Las Vegas and then Missouri. Investigators said the wiretaps also helped them catch a delivery driver who was attempting to smuggle contraband to the gang’s leaders.
Along with the drug ring, the complaint accuses Sylvester of murdering an inmate at Folsom State Prison in 2011 and ties other defendants to a series of murders of other fellow gang members.
Law enforcement officials have also arrested Daniel Troxell, 66, Travis Burhop, 46, Brant Daniel, 44, Donald Mazza, 48, Pat Brady, 48, Michael Torres, 55, Jason Corbett, 47, Samuel Keeton, 40, Jeanna Quesenberry, 52, Kristen Demar, 44 and Justin Petty, 37.
Officials said the investigation into the gang was sparked by an encounter between a police officer and a street-level meth dealer in Northern California, and that the wiretaps “saved lives” by allowing prison officials to foil several of the gang’s murder attempts.
“Agents exposed Aryan Brotherhood operations, providing law enforcement opportunities to successfully intervene and save lives,” stated U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Chris Nielsen. “This case demonstrates our unwavering commitment to combat drug related gang violence not only on the streets, but also behind prison walls.”
The investigation was led by the DEA with help from state and local law enforcement agencies, and if convicted, the defendants will face sentences ranging from five years to the death penalty.