Home Phoenix Press Releases 2009 Violent Street Gang Task Force Busts Prison Gangs
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Violent Street Gang Task Force Busts Prison Gangs

FBI Phoenix June 17, 2009
  • Jill McCabe (623) 466-1844

Prison gangs running their criminal operations behind bars suffered a major setback Wednesday, with the announcement 26 people were charged in a 109 felony count indictment.

The indictments are the culmination of Operation North Star, a yearlong effort of the FBI Violent Street Gang Task Force. The task force includes the Arizona Department of Corrections, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Phoenix Police Department, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the Mesa Police Department and the FBI.

The investigation targeted members of prison gangs and their surrogates on the outside. Those surrogates were often girlfriends and wives of the prison inmates, given the task of conveying messages of prison gang leaders and facilitating criminal activity.

“The FBI's Violent Street Gang Task Force has been highly successful in combating violent gang activity in the Valley in recent years. The task force concept is a force multiplier because it brings together various levels of experience and resources from local, state and federal agencies,” said FBI Phoenix Division Acting Special Agent in Charge Steven Hooper. “Today’s action by the task force has disrupted a violent prison gang and has reduced the potential for violent gang activity.”

“The Arizona Department of Corrections investigators worked closely with the other law enforcement agencies to curtail prison gang activity,” ADC Director Charles L. Ryan said. “The cooperation of all these law enforcement agencies will significantly disrupt the activities of our prison gangs.”

 “The Arizona Department of Public Safety is proud to have played a part in dismantling this violent and dangerous prison drug trade.  We’re glad our GIITEM detectives could contribute their expertise in this very important case,” said Roger Vanderpool, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said: “We thank the members of this task force for their hard work and dedication to public safety. Our prosecutors now will work to ensure these defendants receive justice.”

“This task force is key to reducing the violent street crimes we see from gangs both inside and outside of prison,” said Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

“The Phoenix Police Department is committed to aggressively pursuing and routing out criminal gang members who think they can prey upon our community,” said Phoenix Public Safety Manager Jack F. Harris. “This Task Force partnership has provided valuable resources in combating these criminals. The efforts of the Task Force illustrate that the community will not tolerate the criminal activities of these individuals and there is no place they can hide.”

“This is another great example of the continued team work between the law enforcement agencies to take violent criminals off the street and out of our communities,” said Mesa Police Department Commander Vicki Myers.

The 109 charges include money laundering, racketeering and supporting a criminal syndicate. The investigation found that women visitors were used to smuggle contraband into prisons. Those indicted include eight women. Twenty-four of the 26 people indicted are in custody.