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Asian Extortion Gang at School Revealed : Crime: Arcadia High teen-agers paid protection money to a group supervised by adults, police say. The ring also carried out beatings for $50.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Police investigating a student extortion ring at Arcadia High School say the teen-age members worked under the supervision of three adults with ties to Asian gangs.

Police broke up the ring in February, arresting 11 youths ages 15 and 16. Since then, the authorities have arrested two adults and compiled reports that reveal the youths’ involvement with organized crime and the extent of their activities in terrorizing other students.

Police said documents they have obtained indicate that adults recruited the teen-agers into a campus gang named the Chinese Mafia Assn., which extorted money from younger children and ran an assault-for-hire service. Up to 35 teen-agers were believed to be involved, but police only had enough evidence to arrest 11.

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Arcadia Detective David Hunkapiller said the teen-age gang threatened students at three junior high schools and coerced them to pay weekly $5 protection fees, and collected $50 payments from youths for beating up students who had crossed them. Gang members told police they planned to buy guns with the money they took in.

The adults told the teen-agers they should do the dirty work because they would not go to jail if arrested because of their age, police said.

“The people organizing it are bona fide gang members and that’s how they recruited, they went after younger kids,” Hunkapiller said.

Yen Chin (Tony) Lu, 19, one of the alleged ringleaders, is due in Pasadena Superior Court on Thursday on charges of attempted extortion. Students identified Lu to police as their boss and said he boasted of his affiliations with Wah-Ching, an Asian gang that police say is expanding its criminal activity in the San Gabriel Valley.

Lu denied this but told authorities that two other adults who recruited teen-agers at Arcadia High School are members of the Wah-Ching.

One of those adults fled to Hong Kong before he could be arrested, police said. The district attorney’s office said there was not enough evidence to prosecute the third man, who attended Arcadia High School in 1986, where he was affiliated with gangs called Black Dragon and Red Door and was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon.

The latest incidents are similar to the activities of a Red Door crime ring that police broke up in 1990 at Arcadia High School. In that case, five adults and five minors were arrested for offenses including kidnaping, assault with a deadly weapon, extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion after three Arcadia High students were kidnaped and beaten for refusing to join the gang.

Arcadia police are still investigating the actions of the juveniles arrested in February. All the teen-agers are of Asian descent and their names were withheld because of their age.

Authorities say Asian gang members often are able to operate with impunity because victims are too frightened to report them. Additionally, they say that while some gang members are troubled youths, many others stay out of trouble, get good grades and keep a low profile. In the past year, police say, Asian gang members have begun to emulate the baggy dress of Latino and black gangs.

The Chinese Mafia Assn. gang congregated at the Arcadia condo of a 15-year-old ringleader whose parents live in Taiwan. Gang members invited potential recruits to parties with them there, police said. Two others in the gang also live alone while their parents reside in Asia most of the year. Authorities also found two runaway Chinese-American girls, ages 13 and 14, living at the condo.

School officials said teen-age gang members at Arcadia High found both members and victims in classes where English is taught as a second language. One 15-year-old arrested in February’s sweep regularly volunteered to translate for Chinese immigrants, said Don Cooke, assistant principal of Arcadia High School. Educators later learned that the new arrivals feared the boy, who was using his position of trust to recruit and terrorize.

Arcadia school officials said the adult gang members, who were in their late teens or early 20s, slipped onto campus and mingled unnoticed with high school students, whom they invited to hotels and restaurants.

“They find out who’s living here by themselves, who’s got the bucks,” Cooke said.

Arcadia school authorities began suspecting that several campus fights were the result of hired assaults after students told police they knew they could hire the gang to beat up students for $50.

The ring came to the notice of police last November, when educators turned over complaints and anonymous letters from students. Beverly Rodriguez, the vice principal at First Avenue Junior High, received an anonymous letter describing the extortion attempts on all Chinese students at the campus and begging for help.


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