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Attorney General Bill McCollum Press Release
South Florida Authorities Announce 1st Indictment of Statewide Grand Jury on Gangs
~ 10 members of SUR-13 gang arrested in Palm Beach County, charged with criminal racketeering ~
WEST PALM BEACH, FL – Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, Attorney General Bill McCollum and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) today announced the first arrests and indictments of the 18th Statewide Grand Jury convened to study the growth of gangs and gang violence in the State of Florida. Authorities arrested 10 South Florida members of SUR-13, a dangerous gang that operates statewide. Each member will be charged with criminal racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering and could each spend up to 60 years in prison if convicted. The sweep is one of the year’s largest coordinated efforts to target gangs as an organized criminal enterprise and included cooperation from the Florida Highway Patrol, U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the State Attorney’s Office for the 15th Judicial Circuit.
The local and state law enforcement investigation identified the alleged gang members as individuals connected to other criminal activity including the attempted murder of rival gang members during a drive-by shooting that severely injured an innocent bystander. Other crimes attributed to the gang include a series of armed robberies, retaliatory arson, aggravated battery and multiple theft and drug-related charges. The men were arrested yesterday during a tactical operation coordinated by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office with members of the Palm Beach County Multi-Agency Violent Crimes Task Force. During the arrest sweeps, a search warrant revealed a fully loaded Tech 9 assault weapon at one of the individual’s homes.
“The only way we are going to stop the growth of gangs and reduce the gang violence threatening our state is to work cooperatively with local, state and federal authorities to take these criminals off the streets and bring them to justice,” said Attorney General McCollum. “This operation has clearly proved that when we work together, we can achieve better results. I am pleased with the work done by the Statewide Grand Jury we impaneled and I look forward to even more progress.”
Those arrested include the following individuals: Ernesto Campos, 25; Isaias Jacobo, 24; Victor Castillo, 24; Enrique Medran, 20; Dennis Medrano, 19; Alexis Medrano, 17; Kevin Medrano, 19; Efran Ortiz, 25; Carlos Martinez, 21; and Roberto Trejo, 18. Ernesto Campos, the group’s leader, is in the country illegally. All defendants are currently being held at the Palm Beach County Jail on $1 million dollar bond as ordered by Chief Judge Kathleen Kroll, Presiding Judge of the 18th Statewide Grand Jury. All will be charged with criminal racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering, both first-degree felonies. Attorney General Bill McCollum’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute the cases in the 15th Judicial Circuit using the racketeering charges to attack the gang as an organized criminal operation.
"This is a perfect example of the type of team effort I support and encourage,” said Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw. “Our Gang Strategy here at PBSO calls for partnerships with Federal, State & local agencies. By using the state statues involving RICO we are attacking their organized criminal activity by targeting their organizations from the top to the bottom."
“Gang activity will not be tolerated by Florida law enforcement,” said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey. “We will continue to work collaboratively to prevent these criminal organizations from operating and stop them from bringing violent crime to our communities.”
To address the gang issue on a statewide level, the Attorney General’s Office launched the Statewide Grand Jury in August to investigate criminal gang activity including crimes involving narcotics or other dangerous drugs and robbery, as well as violations of the Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organization (RICO) Act. The jurors are also studying various criminal issues and plan to make recommendations on needed laws to deter gang activities and punish those involved in these pursuits. An interim report, which will include legislative recommendations for combating the spread of gangs and gang violence, is expected to be released in early January.
In addition to impaneling the grand jury, the Attorney General’s Office has also convened an Executive Group to examine the growing threat criminal gangs pose and develop a coordinated anti-gang strategy. The statewide gang reduction strategy will take a two-pronged approach: a law enforcement effort and an educational effort focused on prevention and intervention. The strategy will address issues concerning gang membership identification, gang recruitment, risk factors for youth, prevention, crime suppression and post conviction or adjudication diversion. The long-range plan will include gang suppression and deterrence techniques; prosecution and criminal justice system enhancements; prevention and intervention; data and intelligence sharing; education and training; and rehabilitation and reentry efforts for former gang members. More information can be found online at http://www.safeflorida.net/safestreets
Members of the Executive Group include:
· Commissioner Gerald Bailey, Florida Department of Law Enforcement
· Commissioner Eric Smith, Department of Education
· Secretary Robert Butterworth, Department of Children and Families
· Secretary James McDonough, Department of Corrections
· Secretary Walter McNeil, Department of Juvenile Justice
· Colonel Bill Janes, director, Office of Drug Control
· Colonel John Czernis, director, Florida Highway Patrol
· Sheriff Joey Dobson, president, Florida Sheriffs Association
· Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell
· Chief H.C. “Skip” Clark II, president, Florida Police Chiefs Association
· State Attorney Willie Meggs, 2nd Judicial Circuit