A federal investigation into the manufacture and dealing of crack cocaine in the Watts neighborhood of South Los Angeles led to the arrests of 19 people Wednesday, prosecutors announced.
Most of the individuals arrested are accused of being members of the Bounty Hunter Bloods, a gang with a long history of committing violent crimes in the Nickerson Gardens housing complex. They were among 22 defendants charged in nine indictments unsealed Wednesday, which include several allegations of violations of federal narcotics and firearms laws, according to federal prosecutors.
Law enforcement officials seized 12 pounds of methamphetamine, 1 kilogram of crack cocaine and 26 firearms including five so-called “ghost guns,” which can’t be tracked since they don’t have serial numbers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a statement.
The 19 individuals arrested were expected to appear in federal court in downtown L.A. Wednesday afternoon, prosecutors said. The remaining three defendants include one person already in custody on unrelated charges and two individuals who authorities are still searching for.
At the center of the case is the alleged drug dealing activities of two men described by federal prosecutors as “documented” members of the Bounty Hunter Bloods: Damion Baker, 43, a.k.a. “Fatts,” and Tony Carr, 49, a.k.a. “T-Bone.” The main indictment details 15 criminal charges and alleges Baker managed a network of drug suppliers, manufacturers and distributors.
It states Baker allegedly obtained powder cocaine from his suppliers and then — working with Carr — cooked it into crack cocaine at a location in Nickerson Gardens, prosecutors said. He allegedly then packaged the drugs for other dealers and customers at the housing complex. Prosecutors said co-conspirators then collected money made from the drug-dealing network.
The crimes’ alleged link to the Bounty Hunter Bloods is notable because the gang provided the basis for established relationships that allowed the drug ring to operate, according to the indictment, which describes the trafficking of crack cocaine as “highly dangerous and lucrative.”
The gang has been linked to organized crime and drug activity, based out of the Nickerson Gardens housing complex at 1590 114th Street in Watts, for several decades.
“This is one of the most violent gangs in the history of the city,” then-Los Angeles Assistant Police Chief George Gascon, now the county’s district attorney, told the L.A. Times in January 2004 following a raid that targeted the gang’s leaders and led to 41 arrests.
Baker has been charged with nine felony counts while Carr is facing seven felony charges; among the alleged crimes are narcotics distribution and firearms-related offenses. The two men and 10 other individuals in the indictment all face one count of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine, according to prosecutors.
Another eight indictments allege crimes including violations of federal narcotics and firearms laws committed by 10 other defendants in the case.
According to prosecutors, 14 of the defendants — including 12 charged in the main indictment — could face life in prison if convicted of conspiracy to distribute more than 280 grams of crack cocaine. Conviction of that criminal charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.
Meanwhile, another four defendants would receive a mandatory minimum sentence of five years if they are convicted of conspiracy to distribute 28 grams or more of crack cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
The FBI’s L.A. Metro Task Force on Violent Gangs assisted state prison officials, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in the investigation.