• Wed, July 10, 2013 4:30 PM | Trevor (Administrator)

    When Saul Santana went looking for revenge, he found it in Anthony “Ace” Colon.

    It was the bloody summer of 2009, and Santana, a 10th Street Gang member, was seeking retaliation for the shooting of his cousin, fellow gang member Edwin Rivera.

    Santana found Colon, the rival Seventh Street Gang member who shot his cousin, on Ullman Street in Riverside and in broad daylight shot him several times in the back.

    Colon died later that day.

    “I did that dude dirty,” Santana later told Rivera.

    Santana, who also was shot in retaliation a few months later, was sentenced Monday in federal court to 27 years in prison.

    His sentencing marks the latest chapter in the 10th Street Gang prosecution, one of the biggest organized-crime cases in Buffalo in decades.

    At the heart of the prosecution are five murders, including the slayings of two innocent neighbors caught in crossfire, and the allegation that the defendants acted collectively, as part of a criminal enterprise, to sell drugs and terrorize their West Side neighborhood for nearly a decade.

    “I did this to myself,” Santana told U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. “No one else is to blame.”

    His mother, weeping in the courtroom, could be heard saying, “I love you.”

    “I took the life of another human being,” Santana said, “and that can never be replaced.”

    Santana’s defense lawyer acknowledged his client’s role in the war between the 10th and Seventh Street gangs – he was one of the first gang members to be charged in the case – but suggested his actions were the product of a world most people can’t even fathom. It was a world that saw Colon shoot Rivera, Santana shoot Colon, and another Seventh Street Gang member shoot Santana.

    “That’s just a microcosm of the case,” said James P. Harrington, Santana’s defense attorney, “but it defines the world these young men were living in.”

    Federal prosecutor Joseph M. Tripi agreed but reminded Arcara that Santana’s regret didn’t become evident until after he was charged with Colon’s killing.

    “The war between the two gangs heated up, and Mr. Santana was part of that,” Tripi said of that summer on Buffalo’s West Side. “At the time, there was no remorse.”

    Santana pleaded guilty last year to taking part in a racketeering conspiracy but, as part of his plea deal, admitted killing Colon on June 26, 2009, in an act of revenge.

    “They have a code,” Arcara said. “It’s too bad the culture he was in caused him to do what he did.”

    Formed in the late 1980s, the 10th Street Gang dominated the West Side neighborhood bounded by Niagara Street on the west, Richmond Avenue on the east, Auburn Avenue on the north and Carolina Street on the south.

    The government’s investigation of the gang resulted in 38 people being charged; many of them have taken plea deals. About 20 reputed gang members still face felony charges, including murder or attempted murder.

    The investigation was overseen by the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, a coalition that includes Buffalo Police and State Police.


  • Wed, July 10, 2013 8:32 AM | Trevor (Administrator)
    WASHINGTON: The Obama administration is levying financial sanctions against six individual leaders of an ultra-violent street gang already designated an international criminal group.

    The six men are believed to be among leaders of MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, a sprawling U.S. and Central American street gang most infamous for using machetes to hack and stab victims.

    The Treasury Department declared MS-13 a transnational criminal organization last year. It is the first international street gang to be so designated.

    The designation is intended to keep the gang from using the U.S. financial system and allows the government to seize what are estimated to be millions of dollars in profits from drug and human smuggling and other crimes.

    MS-13 is believed to have begun in Los Angeles in the 1980s by Salvadoran immigrants eager to protect their own against Mexican and African-American gangs. They quickly grew and have spread across most major American cities and throughout Central America.

    In a 2012 statement, the Treasury Department wrote: "MS-13 consists of at least 30,000 members in a range of countries, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, and is one of the most dangerous and rapidly expanding criminal gangs in the world today. MS-13 is active within the United States, with at least 8,000 members operating in more than 40 states and the District of Columbia. MS-13's criminal nature can be seen in one of its mottos, "Mata, roba, viola, controla" ("Kill, steal, rape, control"). Domestically, the group is involved in multiple crimes including murder, racketeering, drug trafficking, sex trafficking and human trafficking including prostitution. The group frequently carries out violent attacks on opposing gang members, often injuring innocent bystanders. MS-13 members have been responsible for numerous killings within the United States."

  • Tue, July 09, 2013 8:37 AM | Trevor (Administrator)

    YONKERS, N.Y. – A 25-year-old Yonkers gang leader was found guilty of criminal activities such as racketeering, murder and drug charges by a jury in White Plains Federal Court, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

    As a member of the Elm Street Wolves gang, known as the Wolves, Steven Knowles shot down a rival gang member and killed him in cold blood, U.S. Attorney Preet Bhara said in a news release.

    “Knowles is now held accountable for not only (that) murder but for the years of violence and drug dealing committed by Knowles on the streets of Yonkers,” his statement said.

    He was also involved in the attempted murder of another gang member and participated in a more than decade-long conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine within several blocks of Elm Street and Oak Street in southwest Yonkers, the U.S. Attorney's release said.

    A jury found that since 2000 Knowles was guilty of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to murder in aid of racketeering, murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to distribute or possess with intent to distribute 280 grams or more of crack cocaine, discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime, and discharging a firearm. He was acquitted of one count of conspiracy to commit murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of possession, use, and carrying a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

    Knowles was arrested in 2011 on a 21-count indictment, along with the arrest of 65 presumed Yonkers gang members.

    Knowles faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison, plus 35 years. His sentencing is scheduled for May 29, 2014.

    To read the full release from the U.S. Attorney, click here.

  • Fri, July 05, 2013 11:50 AM | Trevor (Administrator)

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) undefined A 23-year-old Syracuse man who was a member of a local gang has admitted fatally shooting a 20-month-old child while attempting to kill a rival gang member nearly three years ago.

    The admission by Saquan Evans came Wednesday as he pled guilty to a federal indictment that charged him and 13 others with conspiring to exploit their membership in the Bricktown Gang.

    Evans opened fire on Rashaad Walker Sr.'s minivan in November 2010. One of the bullets hit and killed Rashaad Walker Jr. as he sat in his child seat.

    Police said the shooting was gang-related retaliation.

    Evans was convicted of murder in state court in May 2012 and is serving 25 years to life in prison. But he had previously denied killing the child.

  • Fri, July 05, 2013 9:19 AM | Trevor (Administrator)

    Syracuse, NY - The last of 14 Bricktown gang members charged in connection with several murders, drug trafficking operations and robberies in Syracuse admitted to their crimes today in federal court.

    Saquan Evans, 23, admitted to shooting four rival gang members on Nov. 7, 2010, and killing a 20-month-old baby while attempting to kill a rival on Nov. 28 of the same year.

    Evans was convicted in 2012 in Onondaga County Court for the drive-by shooting of baby Rashaad Walker and is currently serving a state prison sentence for the murder.

    Read more about the Rashaad Walker Jr. killing.

    Evans also admitted to being involved in a shooting around 1300 South State St. on Nov. 7, 2006. Part of his plea involved admitting to possessing gang paraphernalia including a detailed gang roster, writings, drawings, photos, rap lyrics and clothing, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

    Ernest Hester, 24, admitted to shooting at three people in the 500 block of West Colvin Street on April 2, 2005; possessing ten bags of crack cocaine after being shot in the 100 block of Beard Avenue on Oct. 19, 2006; and actively participating in the stabbing of four people inside a Denny's restaurant on Erie Blvd. East on Jan. 30, 2011.

    Both defendants also conceded to possessing guns.

    An additional plea requirement involved Evans and Hester admitting in U.S. District Court to Bricktown gang activities such as:

    • Maintaining specific geographic territory within Syracuse in which only gang members could sell crack cocaine, cocaine and marijuana
    • Protecting the exclusive crack distribution territory with violence if necessary
    • Obtaining drug suppliers from New York City and elsewhere
    • Projecting a violent attitude and responding to violence with violence in order to preserve their stature in the gang
    • Occasionally using hand signs, wearing blue colored bandanas and having tattoos that signify gang membership
    • Using criteria such as willingness to use violence, ability to sell drugs and familial connections to determine membership
    • Routinely carrying and using firearms in connection with gang activity

    The Bricktown Gang territory was defined in the indictment as extending from Burt Street on the north to East Colvin Street on the south, and from South State Street on the west to Interstate 81 on the east.

    This prosecution resulted from a long-term investigation conducted by the Syracuse Gang Violence Task Force, which is comprised of agents and detectives from the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (Syracuse Office), the Syracuse Police Department, the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department, the New York State Police, and the U.S. Marshals Service. The Onondaga County District Attorney's Office also assisted.

    Evans and Hester are scheduled to be sentenced in December. Each faces up to life imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and up to five years of supervised release following any period of incarceration.

  • Fri, July 05, 2013 9:17 AM | Trevor (Administrator)
    Joshua Vasquez led efforts to beef up safety at Bushwick Leaders' High School for Academic Excellence because of gang violence in the area. As a result, police patrol the area when school starts and ends, and suspensions are down 50%.

    Enid Alvarez/New York Daily News

    Joshua Vasquez led efforts to beef up safety at Bushwick Leaders' High School for Academic Excellence because of gang violence in the area. As a result, police patrol the area when school starts and ends, and suspensions are down 50%.

    Students who have to cross paths with gang members on their way to Bushwick Leaders’ High School for Academic Excellence now have a safer trip, thanks to global history teacher Joshua Vasquez.

    After hearing about kids getting beaten up and robbed on their way to school undefined gang members would station themselves at the Central Ave. M train off DeKalb Ave. undefined Vasquez led efforts to beef up police presence in the neighborhood.


    “Gangs tend to recruit at middle and high schools, so each morning they stood outside and made their presence felt,” said Vasquez. “We had to figure out a way to provide safety for kids coming to school.”

    It helped that the 42-year-old had been a community organizer with East Brooklyn Congregations for about nine years and already had a strong relationship with the 83rd Precinct.


    Vasquez’s commitment to protect his students earns him a nomination for a Hometown Heroes in Education award.

    The Clinton Hill resident, who grew up with a single mom in the Fulton Houses, facilitated efforts between the NYPD and the school about two years ago to stem violence and crime.


    In response, police patrols increased around Bushwick Ave. and DeKalb Ave., and extra cops were stationed when school started and ended each day.

    The extra sets of eyes have made a difference, Vasquez said.


    “The gang activity is still present, but we were able to reduce it,” he said. “The police presence really had an impact on safety.”

    Inside the school, superintendent suspensions are down 50% since 2011, and students are “very happy to have someone they can go to” if they feel unsafe, Vasquez said.

    Vasquez said he sees his reflection in many of his pupils undefined he was once a failing student at Humanities High School in Chelsea, until he met women’s literature teacher Perry Weiner, who became his mentor.

    “He knew how to reach students,” said Vasquez, who later graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College and New York University. “I wanted to be him.”

    Now the new chair of his school’s history department tries to inspire his own students.

    “The ingredients for transforming schools and communities is the same,” said Vasquez. “It’s dedicated, organized people having the courage to work for the same goals.”

    Read more:
  • Fri, July 05, 2013 9:15 AM | Trevor (Administrator)

    The leader of a Yonkers gang that sold crack and killed rivals for years was convicted Monday of numerous federal charges undefined including some related to a 2009 slaying undefined after prosecutors said during the trial that he had earned a reputation among gang members for not hesitating to use deadly force when protecting the group’s turf.

    Steven Knowles, also known as Manny Fresh, was convicted in U.S. District Court in White Plains after being charged in August 2011 with murder, drug dealing and other crimes under federal racketeering statutes.

    He was caught up in a gang sweep in which 65 men undefined mostly from the Yonkers-based Elm Street Wolves and the Cliff Street Gangsters undefined were accused of dealing crack, having illegal guns and violently protecting their turf.

    The gangs have long been a focus of federal investigators. So has Knowles, who was described as a leader of the Wolves, which authorities said has been active for at least a decade in the Nodine Hill neighborhood.

    On Monday, a jury convicted Knowles of most of the charges against him, including ones related to the July 4, 2009, slaying of Christopher Cokley, a member of the rival Strip Boyz gang.

    Knowles lost his shoe after scaling a fence and landing in a creek on his way to the Schlobohm housing project, where he and another male emptied their gun clips while opening fire on a group of Strip Boyz members, striking Cokley in the head.

    Knowles faces a mandatory life sentence, in addition to 35 years in federal prison, when he is sentenced May 29. Prosecutors said Knowles, a founding member of the Wolves, had been involved in a series of shootings since at least 2004.

    The four-week trial featured a number of self-professed gang members who appeared as witnesses for the prosecution undefined people that a lawyer for Knowles argued were “rats” and “criminals” who have lied to authorities repeatedly.

  • Fri, July 05, 2013 9:14 AM | Trevor (Administrator)

    Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler says his department's latest effort against gang gun violence is already showing results.

    It's the Truce Program. Syracuse is one of nine cities in the country using the threat-and-help approach. The city has gotten a $300-thousand dollar federal grant for the program.

    Fowler says that not only gangs, but 'crews' and other associations of groups with 'violent histories or tendencies' have been pinpointed, and brought in for talks with a judge, law enforcers and the mother of a violent crime victim. They're told they can 'get out' of the lifestyle, and are offered help from area social and support agencies. But they're also told that if gun-related, violent crime is connected to them, not only the individual, but everyone associated with the group will be brought in, and charged with everything from the incident, to minor violations like vehicle and traffic infractions.

    Chief Fowler says that after the shooting death of 20 year old Darrell Mobley on Syracuse's east side in March, investigators connected the shooting to a dispute over 'gang' territory, and they arrested 32 year old Martin Griswold, who was on parole after giving a gun to a murder suspect. Fowler says that besides the murder charge, they've made 20 other arrests coming out of the incident.

    The Chief also says that neighborhood groups are the 'eyes and ears' of the police department, and that if more people call in when they see something suspicious, including the illegal use of handguns, the word will get out that lawbreakers will be made to feel uncomfortable.

    Fowler was interviewed on our 'CNY in Focus' segment, on Sunday morning's Weekend Today in CNY, as 'gun violence awareness month' wraps up.

    To get in touch with area neighborhood watches:
    In Syracuse, or 448-8762

  • Fri, July 05, 2013 9:13 AM | Trevor (Administrator)

    CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. undefined The former leader of a street gang unit operating on Long Island has been sentenced to more than 30 years in prison.

    Federal prosecutors say Gustavo Orellana-Torres, also known as "Diablito," pleaded guilty in September 2012 to racketeering stemming from the murder of a Central Islip man.

    Prosecutors say Orellana-Torres admitted participating in the killing. Members of his gang, MS-13, believed they had targeted a member of a rival gang in the May 2009 shooting. They later learned the victim had no gang affiliation.

    Orellana-Torres also admitted to being with a group who shot and wounded a rival gang member in Roosevelt in July 2009.

    Prosecutors say the gang is mostly comprised of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

  • Fri, July 05, 2013 9:11 AM | Trevor (Administrator)

    The number of homicides on record in New York City has dropped significantly during the first half of the year undefined to 154 from 202 in the same period last year undefined surprising even police officials who have long been accustomed to trumpeting declining crime rates in the city.

    In the first 178 days of 2013, the city averaged less than a murder a day, the first time the police can recall that happening for any sustained period. The latest numbers were recorded through Thursday.

    Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly attributed much of the drop to a new antigang strategy meant to suppress retaliatory violence among neighborhood gangs. Police officials also credited their efforts at identifying and monitoring abusive husbands whose behavior seemed poised to turn lethal.

    The recent decrease in violence is all the more striking because last year the department recorded the fewest homicides since it began a reliable method of compiling crime statistics half a century ago. The police recorded 419 murders in 2012.

    “By far, it was the lowest, and guess what?” Commissioner Kelly said Friday morning before going on to announce that the number of murders this year was running about 25 percent below even that record year.

    “In my business, in our business, this is miraculous. These are lives that are being saved.”

    The relationship between the drop in murders and the department’s controversial policy of stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking people on the street was hard to immediately divine.

    On the one hand, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Mr. Kelly have cited the declining murder rate as a vindication of their policing strategies, which rely heavily on the stop-and-frisk tactic.

    On the other, stop-and-frisks have dropped off considerably in the last 15 months, suggesting that the drop in murders might have been a result of other factors.

    In the first three months of 2012, police records indicate, there were 203,500 stops. But in the first three months of this year, the police recorded fewer than 100,000 stops.

    Over the last two decades, the decline in murders in New York has been greater than in other parts of the country. (In the early 1990s, when Mr. Kelly spent a little more than a year as police commissioner, the first of his two stints in the job, the city was coping with about 2,000 murders annually.)

    Mr. Kelly has long discounted much of the criticism of stop-and-frisk as coming from a small number of advocacy groups that he says are disconnected from the communities in the Bronx, north Brooklyn and parts of Queens, where his policing strategies have been focused.

    But even as the police make further inroads in suppressing violence in East New York, Brooklyn, and South Jamaica, Queens, neighborhoods with an outsize share of violence, there is a sense of frustration among police officials that their results have not quelled such criticism.

    Referring to the drop in crime, Mr. Kelly said on Thursday, “Some people apparently are not satisfied with that.”

    His remarks came hours after the City Council passed two pieces of legislation, one that would put in place an inspector general to investigate the Police Department and another that would expand New Yorkers’ ability to sue over racial profiling by officers.

    Noting how the latest reduction of violence coincided with a diminishing number of street stops, some civil rights lawyers have grown more vocal in questioning not only the legality but also the effectiveness of stop-and-frisk tactics.

    But police commanders point to what they say is the long half-life of the deterrent effect of stop-and-frisk, saying that criminals may decide to leave their guns at home because they have been stopped in the past, even if the odds of a stop have decreased in recent months. And the police say the decrease in violence has most likely led to a corresponding decrease in suspicious behavior, which results in fewer stops.

    “Stop-and-frisk, believe me, that is one aspect of what we do, we have a whole complex array of tactics and strategies that we use,” Mr. Kelly said on Friday as he cited his year-old antigang initiative.

    The program relies heavily on tracking the online activities of neighborhood gangs, in effect, trying to prevent shootings before they happen.

    Mr. Kelly said that the initiative had led to a 52 percent decline in shootings in the 75th Precinct, which covers East New York.

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