Feds hit gang that targets USC students, under Mexican Mafia control

Three federal grand jury indictments growing out of Operation Roman Empire led to the arrest of 18 members of the Harpys, also known as the Harpys-Dead End gang. The office of U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte called the Harpys "one of more than a dozen Latino gangs across a wide swath of South Los Angeles allegedly controlled by Mexican Mafia member Danny Roman." The Harpys claim territory southwest of downtown Los Angeles and north of the University of Southern California, the feds say. The release mentions robberies aimed at students.

The 29-defendant indictment that alleges violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act does not formally charge Danny Roman, who is serving a sentence of life without parole at Pelican Bay State Prison. The indictment does name Danny Roman’s daughter and his daughter’s husband as defendants, alleging that they are the day-to-day leaders of the Harpys gang and that they control the gang’s activities on behalf of Danny Roman. According to the indictment, Danny Roman gives his daughter and son-in-law orders that direct gang members to engage in criminal conduct, including collecting “taxes” from businesses and gangs that are funneled back to Danny Roman in state prison. As charged in the indictment, the gang enforces the collection of “taxes” through threats of violence, including murder, for any business or gang that fails to pay or reports the collection of taxes to law enforcement.

In addition to outlining Danny Roman’s control of the Harpys and of other gangs in South Los Angeles, the indictment alleges specific criminal acts, including the distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin; the murder of a gang member who owed a debt to another gang member; robberies targeting USC students; and conspiracies to commit murder, including a plot to kill a witness in a state court case against a member of another gang.

The indictment also accuses Danny Roman of orchestrating the extortion of vendors at the Alameda Swap Meet, which is outside of Harpys’ territory but within the area controlled by Danny Roman. The Alameda Swap Meet, according to the indictment, has long been a central location for criminal activity by members of the 38th Street gang, who are under the control of Danny Roman and regularly extort vendors at the swap meet.

According to the indictment, Danny Roman’s daughter and her husband receive orders from the imprisoned Mexican Mafia member during trips to Pelican Bay in Northern California. They in turn pass Danny Roman’s orders to the “shot caller” and other high-ranking members of Harpys, who oversee drug sales and violent conduct within both Harpys territory and the broader area controlled by Danny Roman. The Harpys shot caller also controls and enforces the collection of tax payments from the Latino gangs under Danny Roman’s control and issues orders to other gangs regarding drug sales and the use of violence.

The initial AP story focuses on the AP angle.

More by Kevin Roderick:
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