By TEREASA NIMS
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – Latin Counts gang members, which include three residents, an Ecorse man and a Detroit man, pleaded guilty in federal court in Ann Arbor to racketeering conspiracy involving murder and drug trafficking and face up to 30 years in prison.
The gang members are the Lincoln Park men, Jonathan Estrada, 27; Jesus Rodriguez, 25; and Angel Rodriguez; Devin Dantzler, 21, of Ecorse; and Victor Vasquez, 26, of Detroit.
U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade said Detroit One collaboration of local, state and federal law enforcement led to the guilty pleas.
According to the racketeering indictment, the Latin Counts gang operates in southwest Detroit and the Downriver communities of Lincoln Park and Ecorse. The indictment alleges that 11 defendants committed assaults, murder, trafficking in drugs and stolen firearms, robbery, and breaking and entering homes and businesses.
The indictment alleges that the gang uses violence to stake out its “turf” and to intimidate both rival gang members and southwest Detroit residents.
As part of their guilty pleas, Dantzler and Vasquez took responsibility for causing the death of Mustafa Al-Yasiry at the Big Apple Market in southwest Detroit on April 18, 2014. The indictment claims several Latin Counts assaulted Al-Yasiry, and Dantzler shot and killed him.
Three other gang members have already pleaded guilty for their roles in the murder.
Similarly, as part of their pleas, Estrada and the two Rodriguez brothers took responsibility for participating in the killing of Terrence McClearen and the shooting of another person on Aug. 18, 2013.
Under the Detroit One Initiative, and through the lead efforts of the Detroit Police Department and the FBI Violent Crime Task Force, which consists of representatives of Homeland Security Investigations, Detroit and Lincoln Park police departments, Michigan Department of Corrections, and Michigan State Police, investigators were able to merge separate probes of various members of the organization and its activities into one encompassing investigation, McQuade said.
“By working together, the Detroit One partners are systematically dismantling the street gangs that cause violent crime in our neighborhoods,” McQuade said. “We want to take back our streets from violent gangs so that Detroit residents can enjoy the safe quality of life that we all deserve.”
“The success of the Detroit One initiative is evident in the continued disruption, arrest and prosecution of these violent gang members in our communities” Lincoln Park Police Chief James Craig said. “The collaboration of law enforcement agencies certainly plays a key role in returning the neighborhoods back to the people.”
“These guilty pleas demonstrate law enforcement’s resolve to stopping the escalating violence linked to gang activity,” HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge Steve Francis said. “Removing criminal gang members from the streets will ensure that they are no longer in a position to wreak havoc in our neighborhoods and threaten the public’s safety.”
“Once again, the Detroit One Initiative and its ongoing dynamic law enforcement collaborations have proven highly effective in combating some of the most violent and heinous criminals in our community”, said David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Detroit Division. “Success, in these cases, is a direct result of ongoing joint investigative efforts like this led by the FBI’s multi-agency Violent Gang Task Force, which is comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
“It is through these joint ventures and the Detroit One Initiative we are routinely and effectively force multiplying by leveraging resources to help keep our neighborhoods and communities safe from the threats gang violence poses to our citizens.”
Detroit One is a collaborative effort between law enforcement and the community to reduce homicide and other violent crime in Detroit. By working together, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies strive to maximize their ability to identify and arrest individuals and groups initiating violence in Detroit.
Since its launch in 2013, homicides are down 20 percent and non-fatal shootings are down 25 percent in Detroit. A comparison between the four-year period since Detroit One began with the prior four-year period shows 174 fewer homicides in the city, according to law enforcement records.
These pleas are the latest in a string of charges from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office during the last four years involving violent street gangs in Detroit, including:
• Nineteen members and associates of the Seven Mile Blood gang for federal racketeering conspiracy and other violent acts in furtherance of racketeering.
• Nine members of the Bounty Hunter Bloods street gang for federal racketeering conspiracy and other violent acts in furtherance of racketeering.
• Fourteen members of the Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club/Vice Lords street gang for federal racketeering conspiracy and other violent acts in furtherance of racketeering.
• Four Vice Lord members in state court for armed robbery and a Vice Lord leader charged under the federal street gang statute for his role in that armed robbery.
• Nine Vice Lords members for racketeering charges stemming from the shooting of four individuals at their family residence in northwest Detroit.
• Three members of the Band Crew street gang charged under the state of Michigan gang felony statute for violent acts in furtherance of their gang activities and eight members of the Band Crew for federal racketeering conspiracy and other violent acts in furtherance of racketeering.
• Ten members of the RTM street gang for federal racketeering conspiracy and other violent acts in furtherance of racketeering.
• Eleven members of the 6 Mile Chedda Grove street gang for federal racketeering conspiracy and other violent acts in furtherance of racketeering.
• Fourteen members of the Rollin’ 60s Crips street gang for federal racketeering conspiracy and other violent acts in furtherance of racketeering.
• Four members of the Band Gang street gang charged under the state of Michigan gang felony statute for violent acts in furtherance of their gang activities and three members of the Band Gang for federal access device fraud and aggravated identity theft and one member of the same gang charged in federal court with being a felon in possession of a firearm;
• Twenty-four people on drug conspiracy charges for their use of 16 houses in the Ravendale neighborhood on Detroit’s east side, many of them abandoned homes, for distributing heroin, cocaine, and crack cocaine between 2013 and 2015.
• Fourteen people on federal charges of criminal enterprise, drug distribution or weapons offenses for drug distribution in the Warrendale neighborhood of Detroit.
(Tereasa Nims can be reached at [email protected])