White supremacist prison gangs used an accomplice from the outside to toss contraband-laden footballs and volleyballs into a prison yard.
That was one detail revealed in a multi-agency law enforcement news conference to announce the takedown of the Aryan Brotherhood and Fresneck gangs in Fresno County.
More than 100 alleged gang members were arrested as part of Operation Lucky Charm on Thursday, through the efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, officials said. The agents also seized 47 firearms and 89 pounds of methamphetamine, along with other drugs and cash.
“White supremacist street gangs engaged in widespread theft, drug trafficking and sales fraud and violence. Additionally, they spread a hateful ideology through the community that should not be accepted in any society,” Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said, participating via video conferencing.
The suspects face a litany of drug trafficking and violent crime charges. At least 15 face federal charges; another 30 will be charged in state court in Fresno, according to authorities.
“Any gang member who conducts themselves in this manner should expect law enforcement to vigorously protect the public from their crimes,” Smittcamp said.
The operation received its code name because the Aryan Brotherhood uses a shamrock as its symbol.
Contraband Smuggled Through Balls
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said drug running operations were ordered through illicit cell phones from incarcerated Aryan Brotherhood leaders.
The method used was discovered during the course of the investigation as to how the orders were made.
“This was one of the efforts that was stopped as a result of our cooperation with CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation). The plan was to smuggle cell phones and narcotics into a prison by throwing a football into the prison property. And as a result of our work, that was stopped,” Mims said.
Mims said gang leaders from the inside would order up their desired contraband, such as phones and narcotics. Volleyballs were also used to deliver the illicit items.
“They actually cut open the sports balls, put in the contraband inside, they used Gorilla Glue to seal it back up and then were going to toss it over into the property of a state prison,” Mims said.
She did not specify the prisons where the scheme was attempted or how the perpetrators were actually caught.
Listening to Calls
Law enforcement was able to listen in to gang conversations. Mims said they were able to prevent 11 acts of violence, including homicide and robbery.
The gangs financed their activities through identity theft, Mims said.
“What’s important is, not only did we disrupt their criminal activity, we disrupted their abhorrent philosophies that they have as a white supremacy group,” Mims said.
The various law enforcement agencies emphasized their collaboration to help take down the gangs.
“I think this Thanksgiving will be a little bit warmer, a little bit closer with family than it could have been as a result of this collaborative effort that made our communities a little bit safer, not just about the state of California, but specifically in Fresno County,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.