The feds cracked down today on a San Gabriel Valley Latino gang they say has been on a war path against African Americans for 20 years.
Sixteen people were arrested, 23 were already behind bars, seven were arrested on state drug allegations, and 12 others were on the loose as authorities acted on a federal grand jury indictment accusing Varrio Azusa 13 of nearly 20-years worth of civil rights violations against area black people.
It was only the second time "in which federal civil rights statutes have been used to address racist gang-related activity," according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A.
(The first action, against Highland Park's Avenues Gang, was documented by the Weekly, here).
The feds called the action in Azusa "Operation Bright Lights Big City."
The 24-count indictment includes allegations that gang members conspired to monopolize the drug trade in Azusa, paid taxes on drug sales to the Mexican Mafia, planned to kidnap relatives of rival drug dealers, violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and denied the civil rights of African Americans.
The indictment alleges the gang was run on the principle that members "will harass and use violence to drive African-Americans out of the City of Azusa and .. use violence in order to prevent African-Americans from moving into the city."
How did they allegedly try to make their brown gang Utopia a reality? Graffiti, beatings, and robberies, prosecutors say. A black high school student was even beaten on his way home from school in last spring -- just because he's African American.
The U.S. Attorney in L.A., Andre Birotte Jr:
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The Azusa 13 gang waged a campaign of hate during a two-decade crime spree in which African-Americans were harassed and attacked. We hope that this federal case will signal the end of this racist behavior and will help vindicate all of the victims who have suffered over the years.
Defendants in the RICO indictment face as many as 20 years behind bars. Most of the others in the indictment, including those who allegedly violated the civil rights of African Americans, could see 10 years.
The defendants were due in court this afternoon.