USB sticks provide look inside criminal gang, say Brazilian officials

SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Authorities say they have uncovered extensive information about the inner workings of Sao Paulo state's largest criminal gang, which is suspected in the killings of 73 police officers so far this year.

Police recovered information contained on USB sticks that they believe were on their way to imprisoned leaders of Primeiro Comando da Capital, or PCC, and that revealed over 1,300 active members of the gang in 123 cities, a monthly average income of $3 million and vast holdings of weapons, vehicles and real estate.

In May 2006, the PCC was suspected of ordering a wave of attacks on police that spread panic throughout South America's largest city and caused the deaths of almost 100 people. But the gang had largely stayed out of headlines from that time until the beginning of this year, when reports of deadly clashes with police began to reappear.

Authorities believe that officers are being attacked for making inroads into the organization’s profitability, according to local media, which on Monday published the gang information released by authorities.

On days when police fear PCC action, their heavy street presence, roadblocks, checkpoints and obvious tension can make parts of Sao Paulo city feel as if it is under siege. On Thursday night, almost every corner seemed to have a few officers and flashing red lights.

The information recovered by police reportedly included spreadsheets with breakdowns of the organization's income from drug trafficking and robberies, as well as a monthly fee of $300 paid by all members. Much of the fee is said to go to supporting imprisoned members and their families.

The gang was founded in prison, and most of its top leaders are believed to be serving time.

"It's a fact that we're living through a moment in which the government is redoubling efforts, doing everything they can to hold us back," said a member in one of the documents.

According to the documents, the PCC's arsenal and holdings include assault weapons, bombs, dynamite, a fleet of 64 vehicles, three armored cars and at least 13 houses and apartments.

The gang's accountants use playful code names for their sources of revenue, according to reports. Marijuana is "strawberries," crack is "pears," and cocaine is "figs. The monthly fees are "onions," because forcing the gangsters to pay causes them to weep.

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-- Vincent Bevins

 
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