Nearly 250 federal agents and police officers swooped into a South-Central Los Angeles neighborhood shortly before dawn Friday, bursting into 16 suspected rock houses and arresting the reputed leaders of a $1-million-a-month cocaine operation run by a street gang called the Five Deuce Hoover Gangster Crips.
The operation culminated in the most significant undercover operation so far by a new state and federal gang task force. It resulted in 13 arrests of what are believed to be the major suppliers of one of the city’s most violent street gangs, authorities said.
‘Vicious and Violent’
“They are one of the heaviest-involved gangs in terms of crack cocaine in the city,” said Ralph Lochridge, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
“They’re also one of the most vicious and violent, in terms of the numbers of drive-by shootings, armed robberies, rapes and armed assaults. What the task force has done is basically gone in and surgically removed the leadership and the hard-core drug traffickers within this particular gang.”
Authorities said the task force targeted the Five Deuce Hoover Gangster Crips, a 1,000-member set whose territory includes the region surrounding 52nd and Hoover streets, when a well-placed informant within the gang was able to introduce undercover agents to the organization’s top crack suppliers.
Over a period of months, the informant allegedly led agents into the gang’s most heavily fortified rock houses, standing by while the agents completed secretive drug buys, negotiated the sale of automatic weapons and learned intimate details of gang members’ criminal activities.
A series of affidavits unsealed Friday in federal court outline many of the transactions, in which undercover agents met heavily armed gang members on street corners and in fortified rock houses, forking over $1,800 and $1,900 at a time to purchase rock cocaine.
In one transaction, the documents allege, they negotiated to trade several Mac-10 submachine guns for cocaine from John Leo Bentley, introduced to them as “Baby Johnny.”
Bentley, 31, believed to be one of the gang’s biggest suppliers, confided to the agents that he was the target of a murder plot by other gang members who believed that he had become too wealthy and powerful through his drug-dealing activities, according to one affidavit.
Bentley now faces 20 years to life on the charges. Another alleged major supplier targeted by the agents was Barbara Hammond, 50, who allegedly oversaw a family crack operation from her 48th Street home since 1981, an operation that included her husband, daughter and two sons.
The undercover informant documented evidence of a number of drive-by shootings by members of the gang during the investigation, and two of the original targets of the probe were murdered before it was completed, according to the affidavits.
The agents themselves were occasionally at risk, the documents show. After one buy from Bentley, a DEA surveillance team informed the two agents who had just completed the transaction that they were being watched by Bentley’s associates. The agents ducked into a nearby Sizzler restaurant to wait for backup.
Lochridge said the gang is believed to have been moving $500,000 to $1 million a month worth of rock cocaine, some of it going to Detroit and other Eastern cities.
The Los Angeles Gang Drug Task Force, launched by the U.S. attorney’s office last year, has obtained indictments against 39 defendants so far, but the Five Deuce Gangster Crip investigation is the largest attempted by the multi-agency group to date, said Assistant U.S. Atty. John Gordon, head of the task force.
A similar FBI task force resulted in 10 indictments against members of the 74 Hoover Gangster Crips, some of whom face mandatory life sentences under stiff federal narcotics laws, Gordon said. All of those arrested Friday face minimum prison terms of five years, and most could be sentenced to life in prison.
Arrested Friday were Jasper (Junior) Anderson, 19; Julius Beavers, 23; Bentley; Kevin (Hoover Bam) Bishop, 21; Kevin (Argo) Brown, 22; Randy Hall, 19; Hammond; Cathy Hammond, 25; Dwight (Snake) Murphy, 35; Eules Thompson, 22; Tracy Washington, 25, and two men identified only as “Looney” and “Nicky.”