The History of Organized Crime in America

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The History of Organized Crime in America

The 20th century of American history has seen organized crime play out in movies and television, bringing their story into the consciousness of the nation.

Older Americans who remember the beginnings of the TV age may remember Senator Estes Kefauver and the “Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce” he had that repeatedly questioned notorious mobsters in the 1950’s who appeared before his committee.

1951 Organized Crime Senate Hearings

An amazing estimated 30 million Americans watche the live broadcast of the proceedings in March 1951 on their dim black and white TVs. The hearings the criminials, previously known only in newspaper headlines, to life. At the time, it was the most widely-viewed investigation by the congress. Suave, well-mannered criminals, like Frank Costello and Bugsy Siegel were viewed by a national audience. Their appearance helped form the American image or organized crime that still persists today.

Senator Kefauver tried to expose interstate gambling, that he referred to as “the life blood of organized crime.” Although interstate gambling was just one element, it was so widespread that it was a serious threat for the economy of the nation. America is still dealing with this threat 70 years later.

The Irish – Italian elements of the 1950’s in organized crime has slowly faded, but it’s made room for organized crime’s new face, which reflects and racial and ethnic complexity of today’s America.

Today’s organized crime is highly diverse and has a definite multi-cultural aspect, which is easy for anybody to see with a casual glance. The active crime scene in today’s America includes Chinese, Russian, Armenian, various Asian gangs, and the infamous Mexican drug cartels who are closely allied with the wide racial diversity of American prison gangs.

The subject of federal indictments under “RICO,” the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, is now white biker gangs. These former 40’s and 50’s “party boys” have become criminal enterprises rivaling today’s sophisticated criminal organizations.

The everyday lives of the vast majority of American is far removed when it comes to activities involving organized criminals. It is somewhat of a revelation to realize the far reaching ethnic and racial diversity that involved in today’s criminal organizations that span the globe with their associations. Unlike other parts of our society, the racial and ethnic cooperation achieved by organized crime is unparallelled.

Los Angeles Based Armenian Power Crime Gangs

The Armenian Power gang, based in Los Angeles, has gotten little attention by the media outside of California, so they may not have a high national profile. However, their modest reputation was boosted in February, 2014, by the Justice Department which it announced that Andranik Aloyan from Los Angeles was convicted for his part in one of the largest racketeering conspiracies in American history. His conviction was due to a massive crackdown of his gang. The gang had grown from a street gang consisting of recent immigrants in the past to currently being an international crime ring consisting of approximately 200 members.

The Armenian Power gang began in the 80’s in East Hollywood, forming an alliance with the Mexican Mafia prison gang controlling most of the prison drug trade in California. The Mexican Mafia aided the members of the Armenian Power gang in jail by providing “protection and status.” In turn the Armenian Power gang was wht muscle the Mexican Mafia used to collect dues. This alignment was the springboard which gave them expansion into various other types of crime which includes bank fraud, drugs, and even high-rolling gambling tournaments conducted in secret locations throughout the San Fernando Valley.

It didn’t take long for the Armenian Power gang to come under the scrutiny of law enforcement. After years of wiretaps and surveillance, and a kidnapping and extortion victim who risked his life by testifying, 90 Armenian Power gang members, plus AP associates, were indicted in 2011 by the federal government, and dozens of others were arrested.

Many of the 90 Armenian Power gang members men and women who were convicted worked out plea deals to avoid trial, but in April, 2014, a kingpin in the gang decided to take his chances by facing a federal jury. Known as “Capone,” Mher Darbinyan and two associates appeared downtown at the U.S. District Court House. There a jury spent weeks hearing testimony and being presented with copious bits of evidence. When the jury was finished deliberating, Mr. Darbinyan was convicted on 57 criminal counts which included extortion, racketeering conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, and bank fraud.

When these Armenian Power gang members were convicted, the FBI said, “With the arrests and convictions of nearly all senior leadership of Armenian Power, we dealt a serious blow to their ability to continue to operate in the manner they were accustomed.” Since the convictions there have been numerous media stories about them. It will only be a matter of time if to find out if the Armenian Power gang will only be mentioned in history books.

Gangs in Prison

The operation of prison gangs are normally confined to federal and state prisons and somtimes also to county jails. When released active gang members come back to their communities. Since these released gang members are familiar with their neighborhoods and communities, they then become representatives for their prison gang, recruiting new gang members to do criminal acts for their gang in prison.

Prison gangs have become a serious domestic threat in recent years. They’ve been affiliating themselves with drug cartels who law enforcement refer to as “DTOs” or Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations. Due to these affiliations, prison gangs can maintain substantial influence of the street gangs that operate in their home communities.

An example of these multi-generations gangs in Los Angeles is the Big Hazard gang which operates in East Los Angeles. Recent criminal indictments of this gang indicate that they’re a part of a network made up of Latino gangs who are controlled by the Mexican Mafia prison gang, also known as La Eme.

The Mexican Mafia operates their empire out of numerous federal and state prisons to control the gangs on the streets of Los Angeles. They use gangs such as the Big Hazard gang to keep control of their drug trade. They function as wholesalers and suppliers directly for the Mexican drug cartels. There isn’t much known about the Mexican Mafia since they are highly secretive, but it is known that they’re involved heavily in the trafficking of methamphetamine. This information was revealed in documents associated with indictments under the federal statutes of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) brought against 38 members of the LA Big Hazard gang in December 2014.

Outlaws and Motorcycle Gangs Called “OMGs”

In the past, motorcycle gangs were associated primarily with military veterans who shared an interest in partying and American motorcycles. But today high profile motorcycle gangs such at the Pagans and the Outlaws are still active recruiting military members, but instead of partying they’re being recruited as participants in criminal enterprises. The FBI refer to these types of motorcycle gangs as outlaw motorcycle gangs, or “OMGs.” Currently there are over 300 of these clubs active in the United States. Their size can be as small as a single chapter with six or less members to clubs with hundreds of chapters having thousands of worldwide members. The majority of criminal activity associated with OMGs are done by the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, the Outlaws Motorcycle Club (i.e., “Outlaws”), and the Bandidos Motorcycle Club (i.e., “Bandidos”). Their activities involve drug trafficking, and especially cross-border smuggling of drugs.

The FBI also reveals that these OMGs collaborate with other crime syndicates in Asia, Eurasia, Italy, African, the Caribbean, and Russia. Because these are trans-natinoal associations, these motorcycle gangs function like major international drug-trafficking organizations (i.e., “DTOs”) and are capable of coordinating the smuggling operations for drugs across international borders. Due to these international partnerships, some of these gangs team up with organized crime groups in the United States to commit domestic street crimes such as debt collection, enforcement, money laundering, and extortion.

The FBI has designated four motorcycle gangs as OMGs; the Pagans, the Hells Angels, the Bandidos, and the Outlaws. These four gangs are known collectively as the “Big Four.” The FBI is persuing prosecution against these gangs under the statues of the federal RICO act. The Attorney General of California also lists the Vagos Motorcycle Clubs and the Mongols and the Vagos Motorcycle Clubs as OMGs and includes them as in their list of criminal organizations.

Response to Gangs by Federal and State Government

The new and increasing crime sources has required increased government responses by state and federal authorities that are over and above the traditional level of abilities of these law enforcement agencies. Although these traditional law enforcement agencies are still highly active in dealing with these new threats, they’ve added specialized organization developed to work with current federal and state organizations. These new organizations are not publicly known, but are critical in the successes of law enforcement that have made the headlines.

It’s been shown that domestic organized crime has an increased ability to function in concert worldwide with other highly diverse international criminal organizations in such an effective way, it threatens many ways in which Americans do business, work, and live.

The Department of Justice has created the Organized Crime and Gang Section (i.e., “OCGS”) at the federal level, which is made up of specialized prosecutors charged with implementing and developing and implementing the necessary strategies to try and dismantle and disrupt significant national, regional, and international organized crime gangs. Currently its main enforcement efforts are directed against the organized trans-national crime groups, who pose the most risks to Americans’ well-being of Americans, way of life, and economical stability.

The State Threat Assessment Center ( i.e., “STAC”) is California’s clearing house when it comes to gathering strategic intelligence in order to warn and give information to California’s policy makers and public safety personnel about the varous threats the state faces every day. In addition, they also perform analysis on various trans-national crimes which include human trafficking and narcotics trafficking, that criminal gangs are involved in.

The State Threat Assessment System (i.e., “STAS”) helps investigate, detect, prevent, and mount responses to terrorist and criminal activity, distributes intelligence and helps facilitate communications between local, federal, state, private sector partners, and tribal agencies, to order to help them take action relating to various threat and public safety issues.

Sevens Legal, APC
Criminal Defense Attorneys
3555 4th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
Phone: (619) 297-2800

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