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Attorney General Bill McCollum Press Release
Manatee County Gang Leader Gets 7 Years for Racketeering
~ Brown Pride Locos targeted by state officials for organized crime ~
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced a significant victory in the fight against gang violence with the no contest plea and sentencing of a Manatee County gang leader. Jose Angel Lopez is the leader of the Brown Pride Locos, a violent street gang that has terrorized Manatee County through robberies, assaults, violence against law enforcement and other dangerous crimes. He pleaded no contest today to one charge of criminal racketeering and one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering and was immediately sentenced to seven years in prison, to be followed by five years of probation. Lopez, 19, was prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution in conjunction with the State Attorney’s Office for the 12th Judicial Circuit.
“My office is committed to stopping these organized groups of criminals from running rampant through our communities,” said Attorney General McCollum. “This is a huge victory in our cooperative efforts to run these street gangs out of our state and bring an end to their reign of terror.”
Lopez, known as “Charlie Brown,” was arrested in January with six other gang members – Frank "Magoo" J. Avalos Jr.; Justino "Crazy" Santana Jr.; Fernando "Freddy" Chavez; Jose "Payaso" Luis Rodriguez; Eric "E" J. Santiago; and Alberto Gutierrez. "Pistol" Pete Garcia and Pedro "Perico" were arrested in late February. The arrests were a joint effort by the Office of Statewide Prosecution, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Bradenton Police Department.
“This is a significant step in the right direction as we continue to dismantle this type of organized crime,” said Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube.
The gang members were charged with criminal racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering, a new strategy employed by state prosecutors. Using the racketeering charge, authorities target the gang as an organized criminal enterprise, often useful when witnesses or victims are unwilling to testify against the gang members.
Two of the gang members, Gutierrez and Garcia, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering in late August, agreeing to testify against the other gang members. They could receive sentences up to five years in prison when they are sentenced at a later date. The charges against the remaining gang members are still pending.
To address the gang issue on a statewide level, the Attorney General’s Office launched a statewide grand jury in August to investigate criminal gang activity including crimes involving narcotics or other dangerous drugs, robbery and gambling, as well as violations of the Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organization (RICO) Act. The jurors will also study various criminal issues and make recommendations to the legislature on needed laws to deter gang activities and punish those involved in these pursuits.
A copy of the charging document against the Brown Pride Locos gang members is available here.