Major North Side gang leaders busted

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Members of two gangs formed a decade apart that had recently merged to take out a third gang and expand their territory, have been rounded up by federal, county and city police following the Grand Jury release of a 91-page indictment that includes charges of murder, attempted murder, assault, drug trafficking, attempted bribery, witness intimidation, weapons charges and auto theft.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations indictment, unsealed Feb. 24, charges that the Brighton Heights Crips and Northview Heights/Fineview Crips joined forces in 2002 and 2003 to eliminate the rival Manchester Original Gangsters.

“We consider the Brighton Place/ Northview Heights Crips one of the most violent street gangs operating in southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Acting U.S. attorney Robert Cessar. “Hopefully, they have preyed upon our community for the last time.”

Under RICO, all members of a criminal conspiracy can be charged with the harshest crime in the indictment, in this case murder. So convictions could mean a life sentences for all involved.

“The RICO statute allows us to treat everyone in the gang as a single enterprise,” said Cessar. “RICO also allows for pre-trial detention, so no one is getting bailed out.”

The indictment includes 37 charges covering 301 separate “overt acts” committed by one or more of the defendants documented between May, 2000 and July, 2009.

“This is the largest federal gang action here since the Law Gang back in the mid 1990s,” said Cessar. “At the federal level, we have some very good tools that are uniquely suited to gang prosecutions. We have RICO, which was originally designed to go after the Mafia, and we have the resources and ability to bring folks together in a cooperative fashion.”

The task force, headed up by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and also included the Allegheny County Police, the county Sheriff’s Office and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, arrested the nine indicted members not already in jail. One additional arrest, of Cheryl Chambers of Perrysville Avenue for obstruction of justice, was not part of the RICO case.

Mark Potter, ATF special agent in charge for Pennsylvania, said although the task force was first assembled in 2005, this specific investigation only goes back about two years. While some might think local law enforcement cannot deal with these gangs without federal involvement, that’s not true.

“Remember, of the 27 people indicted, only nine were still on the street,” he said. “That’s because local police have done a tremendous job putting these guys away on drug charges, murder charges, theft. We’re all determined to remove gang members from the street.”

Two of those targeted for arrest, Phillip Turner, 21, no known address, and Teron Jenkins of Sandusky Street, whose age was not available, are still at large. Cessar is asking anyone who sees them or knows where they are to call the local ATF office at 412-395-0540.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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