From street gang to transnational crime syndicate

AP-13

In Los Angeles,  gang sweeps were once as common as palm trees.  The shootings still occur,  but overall arrests are down.  The latest crackdown, however,  was led by the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force against members of Armenian Power, or AP-13.  Armenian Power was once only a street gang in East Hollywood, but has evolved into a sophisticated crime syndicate with ties to the Mexican Mafia and the Russian mob. Nearly 100 members and their associates were indicted on crimes ranging from credit card and bank scams to kidnapping and extortion.  From  my story (Daily News, 2011):

In coordinated raids that began before dawn, law enforcement officials cracked down Wednesday on a sophisticated Armenian street gang, arresting scores of members charged with stealing $20 million from Southern California residents. 

A 212-page federal indictment accused members of Armenian Power of using credit card “skimmers” to steal personal information from customers at 99 Cents Only Stores in Burbank, Glendale, Los Angeles and Orange County.

“The indictments that target the Armenian Power organized crime enterprise provide a window into a group that appears willing to do anything and everything illegal to make a profit,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said at a news conference held at the Glendale Police Department.

“These types of criminal organizations – through use of extortions, kidnappings and other violent acts – have demonstrated a willingness to prey upon members of their own community.”

The documents released Wednesday named 99 defendants and their many aliases and nicknames, such as “Thick Neck,” “Capone,” “Stomper” and “Guilty.”

Officials said 74 suspects were arrested and search warrants served Wednesday at locations that included Encino and Sherman Oaks, officials said. Several of the defendants named in the indictments are considered to be fugitives.

Federal authorities said the crime syndicate had started as a street gang in the 1980s and has evolved into a sophisticated crime ring with more than 200 members. The gang has ties to the Mexican Mafia and high-ranking Russian mob members.

The 99 suspects from the Los Angeles area were indicted on 134 counts, including identity theft, credit card skimming, manufacturing counterfeit checks, kidnapping, extortion, bank fraud, marijuana distribution and illegal gambling businesses.

Dubbed Operation Power Outage, the two-year coast-to-coast investigation involved 800 law enforcement officials and nine federal and local agencies including the Los Angeles, Glendale, and Burbank police departments as part of the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force.

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