Thursday, February 11, 2016

Prison Gang Roundup


The 2016 Legislative Session has arrived. This is one in a series of posts from the staff of the New Mexico Corrections Department. We intend to send a daily update to all our legislators with key points, facts, figures, personal stories describing life here at NMCD.

What happened on December 14 regarding the SNM Prison Gang in New Mexico?
On December 14, 2015, in the culmination of an historic law enforcement operation, a federal grand jury returned two indictments charging a total of 25 defendants with participating in a violent racketeering enterprise known as the Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico (SNM) Prison Gang. The racketeering indictments, which were filed on Dec. 1, 2015, allege that the defendants conspired to violate federal racketeering laws by conspiring to commit violent crimes, including murder, attempted murder and assault, in aid of their racketeering enterprise. The indictments are the result of a multi-agency investigation led by the Albuquerque Division of the FBI that culminated with a law enforcement operation during which all but one of the defendants charged were arrested.
The U.S. Attorney noted that the two cases are being prosecuted as part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets “the worst of the worst” offenders for federal prosecution. Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorneys Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexicos District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders for federal prosecution with the goal of removing repeat offenders from communities in New Mexico for as long as possible. Because New Mexicos violent crime rates are amongst the highest in the nation, New Mexicos law enforcement community has been collaborating to target repeat offenders from counties with the highest violent crime rates under this initiative.
What were the indictments?

The two racketeering indictments allege that the 25 defendants charged were members and associates of the SNM Prison Gang, a state-wide gang operating in New Mexico prisons and in communities throughout the state. According to the racketeering indictments, the SNM Prison Gang was formed in the early 1980s at the Penitentiary of New Mexico after the prison riot in Feb. 1980, and expanded throughout the New Mexico penal system. Gang members and associates allegedly are expected to remain loyal to the Gang and work to further its objectives after they have completed their prison sentences and those who do not are allegedly subject to violent forms of discipline. The racketeering indictments allege that significant goals of the SNM Prison Gang include controlling and profiting from drug trafficking both within and outside the penal system; intimidating and influencing other gangs for the purpose of expanding the network for its illegal activities; and engaging in violence to assert its gang identity and protect its territory.
The first of the racketeering indictments charges 24 alleged SNM Prison Gang members and associates with committing four murders, conspiring to commit three murders and conspiring to commit a violent assault for the purpose of gaining entrance to and maintaining and increasing their positions within the SNM Prison Gang, an enterprise engaged in racketeering activity. The indictment includes Notices of Special Findings against the 12 defendants alleged to have committed murder in aid of the Gangs racketeering affairs. The decision whether or not to seek the death penalty will be made by the Attorney General of the United States based on the recommendations of the U.S. Attorney and after carefully considering each defendants background and the circumstances of his crimes.
The second racketeering indictment charges four alleged SNM Prison Gang members and associates, including three charged in the first racketeering indictment, with conspiring to commit two murders and committing two violent assaults for the purpose of gaining entrance to and maintaining and increasing their positions within the SNM Prison Gang.
More than 500 federal, state, county and local law enforcement and corrections officers were involved in the December law enforcement operation. In addition to the arrests, the operation included the execution of 12 federal search warrants in New Mexico and one in Tennessee; a lockdown of three prison facilities in the state for the purpose of conducting cell searches; and more than 50 probation and parole searches throughout the state. The following agencies were involved in the law enforcement operation: Albuquerque Division of the FBI, New Mexico Corrections Department, New Mexico State Police, Bernalillo County Sheriffs Office, Metropolitan Correctional Center, Albuquerque Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service, and the El Paso, Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas and Knoxville FBI Divisions.
NMCD was among those thanked by the FBI. “Today is a realization towards true public safety and the New Mexico Corrections Department is proud to contribute,” said Jerry Roark, Director of the Adult Prison Division of the New Mexico Corrections Department. “These arrests help us in our mission is to provide safer prisons for those in our care.”

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