Jumat, 03 Juli 2009

Top 6 Gang

Top 6 Gang Arrested In Lake Worth

Authorities this week decapitated the top tier of Palm Beach County’s notorious Top 6 gang, arresting 11 men whose crimes ranged from attempted murder to robberies and cocaine distribution.

The operation dealt a significant blow to the leadership of the criminal group whose members have been connected to 150 shootings and at least 14 homicides in Palm Beach County, authorities said. Top 6, which began as a small rap group in Lake Worth and thrived until it became one of the most criminally successful- and brutal- gangs in South Florida, may see an erosion in its capabilities because of the landmark sweep, authorities said.

The arrests marked just the second time that the RICO statute- once used to nab mobsters like those in the Bonanno, Colombo and Lucchese crime families- was used on street gang members in the county.

“This is part of the nucleus of the group, top-tier guys,” said Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Mike Wallace, who’s violent crimes task force was one of 13 local, state and federal agencies collaborating in the investigation. “We’ve hurt them.”

The arrests, which stemmed from indictments handed down from a statewide grand jury investigation, netted eleven Top 6 members in Boynton Beach and Lake Worth on racketeering and other charges.

Those charged were ringleader Futo Charles, 27, and Carlington Gordon, 23, who were already in Palm Beach County Jail. John Jerome, 25, and Smith Dort, 21, were in state prison. Thomy Thomas, 26, Daniello Olius, 29, Ernst Exavier, 24, Jessee Thomas, 22, Wilson Gilles, 20, and Danel Jerome, 21, were all arrested on the streets Thursday night. Wilbertson Noelzinord was arrested Friday morning.

Bail for each of the eight defendants in court Friday morning was set at $1 million on the racketeering charges. Some defendants are also charged with additional crimes that increased their bail by a few thousand dollars.

The judge also ordered that the defendants provide proof that their bail money comes from a legal source before it can be posted.

The first wave of arrests stemming from the investigation came in December, when 10 members of the Sur 13 gang based in the Westgate neighborhood in suburban West Palm Beach were swept up on racketeering charges.

As part of the racketeering case against the alleged Top 6 members, investigators listed 85 crimes dating back to 2002 affiliated with the gang. They are predominantly drug and gun charges and violence against law enforcement officers.

Top 6 has grown to include about 350 members who control at least 10 predominantly Haitian or Haitian-American neighborhood-based gangs in Lake Worth, Riviera Beach, West Palm Beach, Lantana and Boynton Beach. The gang has also spread to Miami, Orlando and Tallahassee.

Top 6 has been linked to some of the counties most violent crimes, like the killing of Berno Charlemond, 24, shot to death at the Boynton Beach Mall on Christmas Eve 2006, and a March 2007 backyard massacre in which three men were killed and four others critically wounded in the rear of a Lake Worth home.

“These are guys that ruin family’s lives, ” said sheriff’s office Col. Michael Gauger.

Investigators built the case under Florida’s racketeering statute, known as RICO, which has been used to take down mobsters but has become a weapon against street gangs. It allows for stiffer penalties for crimes committed as part of an organized group.

“Most of these gang members don’t even know how to spell Rico,” said FDLE special agent Mike Driscoll. “They don’t know what it is.”

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