DOJ charges 14 gang members, pushing total over 70
New federal charges are being filed against more than a dozen accused gang members as part of the Department of Justice’s crackdown on violent criminals in the Twin Cities.
The federal-led initiative has been ongoing for the past several months, with the first charges against gang members announced in May and additional charges filed in August.
The latest batch of charges brings the total number of suspected gang members charged under the strategy to 73. One of the 14 people indicted Wednesday was previously indicted on other charges in September.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger and several other federal, state and local law enforcement officials discussed the latest charges — which range from racketeering conspiracy and fentanyl trafficking to gun charges, kidnapping, assault and carjacking — during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Luger noted that the latest indictment is an expansion of the investigation into gangs and a fentanyl trafficking operation by Highs gang members. He added that investigators have already seized 11.6 kilograms, which is more than 25 pounds, of fentanyl during the ongoing operation. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says that’s enough to kill hundreds of thousands of people. At least 36 guns and over $218,000 in cash has also been seized.
“The amount of fentanyl seized today equates to about a million deadly doses. To put that in perspective, a million doses is about one-fifth the population of Minneapolis,” DEA Special Assistant in Charge Rafael Mattei said.
Two of the people indicted Wednesday for their suspected role in that operation are from Arizona, and one of the suspects also has links to a Mexican drug cartel, officials say. Prosecutors allege that Highs gang members made several trips to Phoenix between the summer of 2020 and this spring to get fentanyl pills to resell in the Twin Cities. Alleged gang members also shipped fentanyl pills to Minneapolis from Arizona during that time.
“Today’s charges against the Highs gang are focused on the criminal organization’s extensive fentanyl trafficking operations,” Luger said. “Selling fentanyl in our communities is as dangerous and lethal as the brazen gun violence we’ve seen in our cities. Addressing the nexus between narcotics trafficking and violent crime is a critical piece of our Violent Crime Strategy, and I am grateful to my law enforcement partners who are equally focused on protecting the lives of Minnesotans, regardless of the threat.”
The law enforcement officials at Wednesday’s press conference reiterated that “one pill can kill” and, in addition to pledging continued strong actions to combat criminal activity, urged Minnesotans to be conscious of fentanyl’s deadly impact and the fact that any pill bought on the street can contain fentanyl.
“In my time as a prosecutor, I can state without question that fentanyl is the most dangerous drug our community has ever faced,” Luger said.
And Minneapolis’ police chief added that it’s also closely linked to gun violence.
“We must address this head-on in order to have an impact on the crimes that are tearing our neighborhoods and families apart,” Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara said.
Those charged Wednesday are:
- 33-year-old Gregory Brown, aka Lil’ G, aka Knowledge;
- 41-year-old Marques Walker, aka Q, aka Quez;
- 34-year-old Deandre Poe, aka Squizzy, aka Fat Squad;
- 29-year-old Clinton Brown, aka CJ;
- 21-year-old Amarjah Lester, aka M-Thang;
- 29-year-old Christopher Lee Washington, aka Flock, aka David Hendricks;
- 27-year-old Ernest Ketter, aka Shakedown;
- 21-year-old Robert Lesure, aka Bibby Folks;
- 21-year-old Avante Nix, aka Fat Folks;
- 31-year-old Arron Davis, aka A-Boogie;
- 31-year-old Dashawn Jackson, aka D-Nice;
- 29-year-old Jadarius Wright;
- 31-year-old Carlos Serrano;
- 22-year-old Leneal Frazier, aka Baby Chop, aka Lil’ Chop.
“We’re not done,” Luger added, alluding to the potential for further charges down the road.
If convicted, the suspects face a range of penalties, but racketeering conspiracy can carry up to life in prison.
Of the 73 suspected gang members charged in this initiative, 17 have so far been convicted.