HOUSTON (CN) – A South Texas gang that started in the 1980s as a sandlot-football team now specializes in drug trafficking and robbery, federal prosecutors claim in an indictment charging 25 Tri-City Bombers with a racketeering conspiracy.
The Tri-City Bombers take their name from the Tri-City Area of Pharr, San Juan and Alamo in the Rio Grande Valley. The cities are in Hidalgo County on the Mexico border. Hidalgo County contains major drug-smuggling conduits controlled by Mexican drug cartels.
“In the early 1980s, young men from Lopezville, Texas, a small predominantly Hispanic area in the South Texas border area, formed a street football team called the ‘Lopezville Bombers.’ At the same time, young men from the nearby town of Pharr, Texas formed a break dancing group called the ‘Tri-City Poppers,’” according to the superseding indictment returned by a grand jury on March 30 and unsealed Friday.
The indictment continues, “In the mid-1980s, the Lopezville Bombers and Tri-City Poppers merged and became the Tri-City Bombers. In the early days of its formation, the Tri-City Bombers would mostly gather and associate for the purpose of playing pickup football games against teams from various nearby cities.”
Prosecutors say that over the years, the football games ended more and more frequently in brawls and the Tri-City Bombers became known to local police as a tough crew.
The group became an official gang in the late 1980s, allegedly adopting a leadership hierarchy and black-and-red colors, with some members getting tattoos of the gang’s initials and cherry bombs.
“The rules of the Tri-City Bombers, included, among others: membership for life; brotherhood before anything else; never cooperate with law enforcement; obey orders of superiors; pay a monthly fee to the Enterprise; give 10 percent of any criminal earnings to the Enterprise; and never disrespect the Tri-City Bombers family,” the indictment states. “The consequences for violating the rules included severe beating, known as a ‘disiplina’ (discipline), to being ‘x-out’ (marked for murder).” (Parentheses in original.)
Of the 25 alleged members indicted, seven are in custody. The rest are fugitives, court records show.
The defendants all face some combination of these charges: conspiracy involving racketeering, distribution of marijuana, cocaine and heroin, money laundering, robbery and discharge of a firearm resulting in death.
The indictment says several of the defendants were involved in the April 2012 murder of Victor Manuel Serna.
The McAllen Monitor reported that month that several armed men broke into Serna’s South Texas house and shot him in the head, mistakenly thinking he had a load of marijuana inside. Serna died in the hospital two days later.