Three locals charged in white supremacist case

Three Costa Mesa residents were among nearly 50 people arrested or indicted in Orange County's biggest white supremacist prison and street gang crackdown ever.

Jessie Raffensberger, 31, Richard Michael Briggs, 58, and Edward Anthony Ferraro, 30, are among more than a dozen suspected white supremacists charged with a litany of felonies, from extortion to assault with enhancements for allegedly being affiliated with a gang.

All three face life in prison if convicted of all charges.

The gang sweep, dubbed Operation Stormfront, involved the Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Orange County Sheriff's Department and the Orange County district attorney's office.

The name Stormfront was inspired by the country's largest white supremacist website of the same name, authorities said.

In the two-year investigation, undercover ATF agents infiltrated white supremacist gang Public Enemy Number One, and bought 27 guns and 12 ounces of methamphetamine, officials said.

"In Orange County, we will never accept that gangs are here to stay, and we will never give up the battle," said Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas. "A gang's only purpose is to do evil."

The three local suspects are accused of helping gang leaders, or "shot callers," rough up people in two separate incidents where they owed money to Public Enemy Number One gang members.

The gang's trafficking benefited themselves and the country's biggest white supremacist gang, the Aryan Brotherhood, made up of mostly prisoners, authorities said. Much of the violence committed by gang members came from shot-callers in prison, according to investigators.

"Some very, very serious bad guys have been taken off the street for a long time, hopefully for life," said Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

Authorities claim Raffensberger, nicknamed "JJ," helped Ruthie Marshall, a shot-caller's wife nicknamed "Mama Bear," beat up a man who owed her money for getting her car impounded. He's accused of pistol-whipping the man and extortion.

Briggs and Ferraro are accused of trying to help her husband, Wayne Marshall, a shot-caller in prison, extort money from a man he believed disrespected him. Before their target could be attacked, authorities caught wind of the plot and arrested everyone involved, prosecutors said.

Orange County is home to the largest population of skinhead gang members in the country, and is a major source of white-power music, said Kevin O'Grady of the Anti-Defamation League. He considered Operation Stormfront a significant blow to the white supremacist bloc here.

ATF Special Agent in Charge John Torres said the sweep arrested many street-level soldiers and the more powerful shot-callers.

"We put a pretty good dent in them," he said.

Most of the defendants charged in the case are due in Santa Ana's Central Justice Center on Friday for a pretrial hearing.

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