Thursday, April 09, 2009
Cops Bust 'Memphis Mob'
By T.J. Wilham
Copyright © 2009 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
Police and federal agents have arrested or charged 35 members of what they call the "Memphis Mob," a drug gang that moved to Albuquerque in recent years and created "havoc on the streets."
Police have been rounding up the gang members since November on murder, robbery, burglary and drug-trafficking charges. They say they believe they have now caught the majority of the gang, plus about 12 other people associated with it.
Police say the gang began moving to Albuquerque three years ago to set up a drug-trafficking network linked to Memphis. Investigators have linked the gang to three homicides and dozens of armed robberies.
"Every law in the book, they broke," said Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz. The APD special investigation division began noticing a Memphis connection among a variety of felony suspects about two years ago. Gang and narcotics investigators later discovered many of the Memphis suspects were distributing cocaine back and forth between Albuquerque and Tennessee.
Memphis detectives told Albuquerque police they were actively looking for about six of the people that authorities here had encountered.
"They were shocked and surprised (the suspects) were here and were glad (the suspects) were not in their town," Albuquerque Police Lt. Rob Smith said. "They were well-known in Memphis."
Albuquerque police took to calling the gang the "Memphis Mob."
APD set up an informal partnership with the FBI , DEA, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office. The partnership was designed to arrest everyone associated with the gang and bring criminal enterprise charges against many of them. Some gang members already were in custody on various charges before police realized they were associated with the organization.
Police have searched over a dozen homes since November and arrested or charged 47 gang members or associates, nine of whom will be facing federal charges. Nine of the gang members also will be facing a state racketeering charge, a second-degree felony carrying a maximum nine-year prison term.
Some gang members already have been prosecuted.
"We have been and will continue to prosecute them and the entire organization vigorously," said Deputy District Attorney Mark Drebing.
Three murder suspects already in custody have been tied to the gang. Those suspects, police say, were involved in the Nov. 5, 2008, shooting deaths of Ervin Samuels and Lemmarrus Washington and the April 24, 2007, shooting death of Maurice Johnson, 19.
Police don't know why the gang moved to Albuquerque. When interviewed by detectives, one suspect said it was because sentences here were "lax" for felons, Schultz said.
Mayor Martin Chávez is expected to hold a news conference today to announce "one of the biggest gang busts in the history of Albuquerque."
"It is clear these are very bad people that have been removed from the community," Chávez said. "These are vermin, frankly, and they have no business being in our community."