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Hawaiian Gardens gang named in racketeering indictment [Updated]

May 21, 2009 | 11:54 am

Federal authorities today unveiled a sweeping racketeering indictment accusing a southern Los Angeles County street gang of a litany of crimes, including killing a sheriff’s deputy and committing hate crimes against African Americans in order to rid them from their turf.

The indictment, along with several related ones, charges more than 100 members of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang with murder, attempted murder, drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, extortion, kidnapping and witness intimidation. U.S. Atty. Thomas P. O'Brien, speaking at a news conference this morning, touted it as the “largest gang takedown in United States history.”

[Update at 12:20 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said the gang was named Varrios Hawaiian Gardens. The correct name is Varrio Hawaiian Gardens.]

The gang investigation began in 2005 after sheriff’s Deputy Jerry Ortiz was fatally shot while conducting an interview in Hawaiian Gardens, a gritty, largely Latino city east of the 605 Freeway and north of Long Beach.

The shooter was a Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang member with devils' horns tattooed on his forehead. He has since been convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Authorities said the gang was formed in the 1950s or early '60s and today has more than 1,000 members spanning several generations, many of them with connection to the Mexican Mafia.

Although the gang started out with street robberies, drug dealing and turf wars with other gangs, it has since escalated its level of violence, authorities allege. The gang is accused of particularly brazen acts, such as scrawling “187,” the California penal code designation for homicide, on a Sheriff's Department patrol car.

The indictment details several alleged attacks on African Americans, most of them shootings. In one incident, a gang member is accused of using a racial epithet against an African American, yelling at him to “get out of town” and then attacking him with a garden rake. The indictment says one gang member was heard bragging about the slaying of Deputy Ortiz, saying the killing of a cop had put the gang “back on the map.”

The gang members, with monikers such as “Slasher, Shady, Diablo and Menace,” boasted about being racist, referring to themselves as “The Hate Gang,” according to 193-page indictment that outlines the racketeering case. “VHG gang members have expressed a desire to rid the city of Hawaiian Gardens of all African Americans and have engaged in a systematic effort to achieve that result by perpetrating crimes" against them, the document states.

The indictment details 476 “overt acts” that prosecutors say gang members committed as part of the alleged racketeering conspiracy between 1996 and 2009. The alleged crimes include the dealing of methamphetamine, heroin and crack, and the slaying of a fellow gang member suspected of cooperating with law enforcement.

-- Scott Glover