LOS ANGELES (AP) — California authorities said Friday they have dismantled the senior leadership of the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood as part of a statewide takedown of the notorious prison gang and its associates in the Fresnecks street gang in Fresno County.
The investigation — dubbed “Operation Lucky Charm” because the Aryan Brotherhood's symbols include a shamrock — includes federal and state charges for more than 100 defendants in California, Nevada and Montana. Half of the suspects were arrested Thursday in California and others remain at large.
Authorities in a news conference Friday said they were able to foil 11 violent crimes, including murder and robbery, in part through wiretaps. The Fresnecks worked on the streets under the direction of the Aryan Brotherhood, which was founded in California’s San Quentin State Prison in 1964, through contraband cellphones in state prisons.
“We got up on their phones and we listened to the crimes being ordered and carried out in real-time,” said McGregor Scott, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said investigators were also able to stop contraband from getting into state prisons, including a case where suspects were reportedly going to stuff a football with cellphones and drugs and throw it onto prison property.
Authorities have also seized 47 firearms, 89 pounds (40 kilograms) of methamphetamine, 5.75 pounds (2.6 kilograms) of heroin and $136,156 in cash throughout the investigation, which began federally in August 2019. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California also brought other charges against suspected Aryan Brotherhood members about 18 months ago.
Law enforcement authorities allege the violent criminal organizations have “significant resources” that members use to buy and sell guns and drugs. The members are also accused of perpetrating murders, home invasions, kidnappings, large-scale identity theft and fraud, as well as other violent crimes within Fresno County and across California.
“These two gangs pose a real threat to the peace and safety of our communities — not just in Fresno County but throughout the state of California,” State Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Friday.
Police executed 26 search warrants and 65 arrest warrants on Thursday in five counties, officials said. Fifty people were arrested and authorities found guns, methamphetamine, heroin and more than $40,000.