A federal grand jury in Los Angeles has indicted 40 reputed members and associates of the Aryan Brotherhood on racketeering charges that include allegations of a string of murders and violent attacks designed to expand the power of the white racist prison gang, prosecutors said Thursday.
Thirty defendants are already in prisons around the country on unrelated charges. Eight were arrested Thursday and two were listed as fugitives.
Law enforcement officers executed search warrants on prison cells, homes and offices in California, New York, Louisiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Colorado, Massachusetts, Florida, Washington, Nebraska and Connecticut.
The indictments grew out of a six-year investigation into the workings of the gang, which was founded at San Quentin state prison in 1964 and has since spread to penitentiaries across the nation.
Those indicted were charged under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, enacted as a weapon against the Sicilian Mafia in the United States.
In the past several years, prosecutors have resorted to using the 1970 law, commonly known as RICO, with increasing frequency against prison-based as well as street gangs.
The Mexican Mafia, the Nazi Low Riders, the Wah Ching and Los Angeles’ 18th Street gang are among the groups that have been hit with RICO prosecutions.
The law contains tough penalties. Twenty-three of those charged Thursday will be eligible for the death penalty if convicted.
Among them are Barry Byron Mills, 54, of Santa Rosa, and Tyler Davis Bingham, 55, of Sacramento, both members of a three-man commission that allegedly controls Aryan Brotherhood activities throughout the federal prison system.
Mills, currently housed at a maximum security prison in Florence, Colo., is accused of personally committing one of 16 murders cited in the indictment.
Bingham, also in custody at the Florence penitentiary, was accused of ordering murders and assaults on Aryan Brotherhood opponents and dropouts.
A separate troika controls Aryan Brotherhood activities in the California prison system, according to the indictment.
Many members are being held at Pelican Bay Prison in Northern California, designed for the most troublesome inmates in the state corrections system.
Despite efforts to segregate and control them, Aryan Brotherhood members at Pelican Bay have engaged in a lethal struggle for power. At least six murders have occurred since 1996.
Charged in the indictment unsealed Thursday are three Pelican Bay inmates who reputedly make all important decisions affecting Aryan Brotherhood actions in the state penal system: Richard Lloyd Terflinger, 55, and David Allen Chance, 45, both of Los Angeles, and John William Stinson, 48, of Long Beach. All three are eligible for the death penalty if convicted.
The investigation that led to the indictments was headed by agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms with assistance from the state Department of Corrections and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
In addition to the 23 defendants who face death penalty trials, the remaining 17 could receive life terms without the possibility of parole if convicted.