13 suspected gang members arrested in Springfield drug sweep
By Stephanie Berry (masslive.com)
October 8, 2009
More than a dozen members of the city’s most troubling street gangs were arrested Thursday, according to court records unsealed in U.S. District Court.
An FBI affidavit drafted to urge several of nine defendants’ pretrial detention appears symbolic of the city’s unrelenting street crime problem, particularly in Mason Square.
Early morning arrests by the Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force honed in on that neighborhood and its three pervasive street gangs: the Eastern Avenue, Sycamore Street and Bristol Street “posses.”
Investigators estimate there are 300 members collectively, and among them, they have amassed 264 adult arraignments, the affidavit states.
A sworn statement by FBI agent Mark S. Karangekis said of several suspects in their 20s and early 30s, they are considered “OG’s” or “Old or Original Gangsters” who spend time recruiting young people from the inner city.
“These older members recruit young teens to sell their drugs and do their violence … and ruin their lives,” Karangekis said after a press briefing Thursday afternoon. “We’ve been coming after them, and we’re going to keep coming after them.”
Nine defendants were charged with cocaine trafficking and other offenses in federal court, and four others were charged with drug crimes in Hampden Superior Court. The sweep was part of the “Mason Square Initiative,” which officials said has netted almost 100 “significant” associates of street gangs since 2005.
The latest chapter of that initiative involved members whom investigators believe wholesale cocaine to younger, street-level dealers.
Most of Thursday’s charges stemmed from “controlled buys” from an undercover FBI informant, (labeled a CHS, or confidential human source), which was video- or audiotaped by authorities, the affidavit states.
According to federal court records, charged were: Lawon Baulkman, of the Sycamore Street posse; Antoine Watts, of the same; Maurice Spencer, an alleged drug trafficker with the Bristol Street posse; James Collins, of the Eastern Avenue posse; Anthony Graham, of the Sycamore Street posse; Ringo Vaughan, no affiliation cited; Jayson McIvery, of the Sycamore Street and Eastern Avenue posses; Tommie Lee Collins, of the Eastern Avenue posse; and Eugene Crenshaw, of the Sycamore Street posse, all of Springfield.
In addition, four were charged with narcotics offenses in state court: Keon Gladden; Sidney Cox, Michael Atkins and Gregory Harris.
Acting U.S. Attorney Michael K. Loucks and officials from the FBI, Massachusetts State Police, Springfield police and other state and local agencies attended Thursday’s press briefing.
Karangekis said in his affidavit that local gang members spend considerable energy paying “homage” to gang associates who have been wounded or died and hatching retribution plans, which fuels street violence in the city.
The affidavit cites three gang-related homicides in 2008 and five this year.
Springfield Police Commissioner William J. Fitchet said drugs and gangs are the “engine that drives” the majority of street violence in the city.
The defendants are scheduled to appear in state and federal courts for arraignments and bail hearings over the next several days.