PLANT CITY, FL – LAWFUEL – Law Newswire – The Plant City Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that a total of ten gang members have been charged with criminal racketeering, three of whom were arrested this week during a coordinated sweep by local and state law enforcement. The defendants could each spend up to 60 years in prison if convicted of the charges. The sweep is one of the year’s largest coordinated efforts to target gangs as organized criminal enterprises and the second announced in the state today.
The individuals arrested this week are Christopher M. Davis, 18; Craig Kashawn Carter, 16; and Kenneth M. McDonald, 17. The joint local and state law enforcement investigation identified the alleged gang members as being responsible for a series of crimes in Plant City which spanned several years. These crimes include robberies, drug trafficking and battery. Three of the gang members were arrested this week pursuant to a joint investigation conducted by the Plant City Police Department and the FDLE, with the assistance of the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution and the Office of the State Attorney, 13th Judicial Circuit.
“There is no place for gangs in Florida’s communities, and the violence they bring simply will not be tolerated. FDLE will continue to work aggressively with our law enforcement partners to identify, disrupt and dismantle these groups,” said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey.
Six additional gang members were already incarcerated, but will now face additional charges. They include the following: Ellis Edward Bell, Jr., 20; Vintawn Lee Brooks, 17; Preston Leon George, 19; Rodney Ricardo Young, 17; and Ervin Curtis Murray, Jr. 17. One individual is still at large. Each will be charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering, both first-degree felonies. Attorney General Bill McCollum’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute the cases using racketeering charges in order to more effectively attack the gang as an organized criminal operation. Racketeering charges also allow for stronger penalties.
“It is imperative for our state to make fighting the growth of gangs and the spread of gang violence one of our highest priorities, and today’s arrests are a significant step towards making Florida safer,” said Attorney General Bill McCollum.
To address the gang issue on a statewide level, the Attorney General’s Office launched a Statewide Grand Jury in August to investigate criminal gang activity including crimes involving narcotics or other dangerous drugs, robbery and gambling, as well as violations of the Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organization (RICO) Act. The jurors are also studying various criminal issues and plan to make recommendations on needed laws to deter gang activities and punish those involved in these pursuits. An interim report, which will include legislative recommendations for combating the spread of gangs and gang violence, is expected to be released in early January. The statewide grand jury announced its first indictments today in West Palm Beach and 10 additional members of another dangerous statewide gang were taken into custody to also be charged with criminal racketeering,
In addition to impaneling the Grand Jury, the Attorney General’s Office has also convened an Executive Group to examine the growing threat criminal gangs pose and develop a coordinated anti-gang strategy. The statewide gang reduction strategy will take a two-pronged approach: a law enforcement effort and an educational effort focused on prevention and intervention. The strategy will address issues concerning gang membership identification, gang recruitment, risk factors for youth, prevention, crime suppression and post conviction or adjudication diversion. The long-range plan will include gang suppression and deterrence techniques; prosecution and criminal justice system enhancements; prevention and intervention; data and intelligence sharing; education and training; and rehabilitation and reentry efforts for former gang members. More information can be found online at http://www.safeflorida.net/safestreets.
Members of the Executive Group include:
· Commissioner Gerald Bailey, Florida Department of Law Enforcement
· Commissioner Eric Smith, Department of Education
· Secretary Robert Butterworth, Department of Children and Families
· Secretary James McDonough, Department of Corrections
· Secretary Walter McNeil, Department of Juvenile Justice
· Colonel Bill Janes, Director, Office of Drug Control
· Colonel John Czernis, Director, Florida Highway Patrol
· Sheriff Joey Dobson, President, Florida Sheriffs Association
· Sheriff Larry Campbell, Leon County
· Chief H.C. “Skip” Clark II, President, Florida Police Chiefs
· State Attorney Willie Meggs, 2nd Judicial Circuit