15 arrested in multi-agency gang unit investigation

Suspects' mugshots (District Attorney's Office)
Suspects' mugshots (District Attorney's Office)
Orleans DA Leon Cannizzaro (center), Mayor Mitch Landrieu, NOPD Supt. Ronal Serpas and other officials at Thursday's news conference.
Orleans DA Leon Cannizzaro (center), Mayor Mitch Landrieu, NOPD Supt. Ronal Serpas and other officials at Thursday's news conference.

FOX 8 received this news release from the District Attorney's Office Thursday morning:

Following an intensive and long term investigation by the Multi-Agency Gang (MAG) Unit, the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office obtained a sweeping fifty-one count racketeering indictment against fifteen defendants on Wednesday. In what is believed to be the broadest street gang indictment in the history of New Orleans, the DA's office indicted members of the 110'ers gang in a litany of violent crimes including ten murders – among these the murder of Brianna Allen. Additionally, the racketeering indictment lists four other murders as "overt acts" in furtherance of the gang's criminal enterprise.

The investigation of the 110'ers gang, which appears to be an umbrella organization of several smaller neighborhood gangs, began late in the summer of 2012. The investigation, which was a cooperative effort between the DA's office and the NOPD homicide unit, grew out of investigations of several isolated incidents of violent crime in the 10th and 11th wards. The investigation blossomed following the formation of the MAG unit in November of last year, when several law enforcement agencies were given the ability to devote full time man power to this as well as other street gang investigations.

In response to this indictment, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said, "The people of New Orleans are witnessing a rebirth of their criminal justice system. The level of cooperation between law enforcement agencies – local, state, and federal – is unprecedented."

Rico Newman aka "Lil Rico", Sam Newman aka "Lil", Demond Sandifer aka "Lil D", Antonio Johnson aka "Big Rico", Eric Shelbia aka "E-Gunna", Ja'On Jones aka "Sticks", Joshua Pittman, Kerry Pittman, Ronald Thompson, Stanton Guillory aka "Na Na", Charles Lewis, Kevin Calhoun, Charlie Brown aka "Mac", Tyron Harden aka "T-Man", and Joseph Bienemy aka "Doo-Man" were each indicted with a single count of racketeering. Additionally, each defendant was charged with various other crimes ranging from perjury and obstruction of justice to armed robbery and murder.

"These indictments are proof of the unwavering attention and dedication our Homicide detectives and Gang Unit members have put into making New Orleans a safer city. Over a year ago, Homicide detectives, working closely with the DA's Office and this Gang Unit, started to unravel a complex and very dangerous group known as the 1-10er's. Together, this team collected the evidence necessary to arrest these gang members, who now face the potential of spending decades in prison. This is a signal to other gangs in New Orleans: If you keep up the violence, we will put you away." Said NOPD Police Chief Ronal Serpas.

This indictment was the second high-profile indictment stemming from the work of the Multi-Agency Gang Unit. Earlier this year the US Attorney's office obtained a federal indictment against five defendants in a case investigated by the MAG Unit.

The MAG Unit was formed several months ago to try and focus additional resources on the groups of individuals who continue to distribute drugs and commit acts of violence in our neighborhoods. The unit is an integral component of the Group Violence Reduction Strategy, a key initiative of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's NOLA FOR LIFE comprehensive murder reduction strategy. The Group Violence Reduction Strategy, pioneered by criminologist David Kennedy, is designed to address the relatively small number of people who are locked in various group dynamics on the streets, and who are responsible for an overwhelming majority of murders. For those who choose to stop the violence and want support, there is a team providing support services to help them. Those who continue violence will bring unprecedented attention to their entire group from law enforcement.

"Our message in this Group Violence Reduction effort is simple-- our community is demanding that the violence stop," said Mayor Landrieu. "The cooperation of federal, state and local law enforcement in this Gang Unit is going to improve our ability to hold these gangs and groups accountable. The rules have changed."

The Multi-Agency Gang Unit is the central bureau tasked with gathering evidence against violent gangs and all of their members that leads to the prosecution and conviction of entire violent gangs in either state or federal court on criminal conspiracy, street gang, or racketeering charges. The MAG Unit is conducting several simultaneous investigations on identified groups, which will result in state and federal prosecutions of these groups – thereby removing violent offenders who are responsible for the majority of violence on the streets of New Orleans.

The following agencies are part of the Multi Agency Gang Unit:

• New Orleans Police Department (NOPD);

• Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office (DA);

• Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office (OPSO);

• Louisiana State Police (LSP);

• Parole Board of the Louisiana Department of Corrections;

• United States Attorney's Office (USAO);

• Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI);

• Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF);

• Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA);

• United States Marshal's Service (USMS); and

• United States Probation & Parole Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

"This case is a perfect example of the incredible momentum that the MAG Unit continues to build in its collaborative efforts to combat the violent gang threat in New Orleans," said FBI Special Agent Michael Anderson.

Assistant Special Agent in Charge Robert Schaal stated, "We are very encouraged with the progress of the Multi Agency Gang Unit thus far. The investigation leading to this indictment and the arrests today are a prime example of the success that can be achieved through the consolidation and coordination of law enforcement resources, working toward a common goal. We will continue to work with our state, local and Federal partners to aggressively combat violent crime in our communities and work to make our neighborhoods safer."

Gangs have become an increasingly deadly threat to the safety and security of our nation's citizens. DEA focuses its resources on targeting the most significant drug trafficking and gang organizations operating at the international, national, regional, and local level. Consequently, the Multi-Agency Gang Unit, as part of the Group Violence Reduction Strategy, is a tailor made partnership for the DEA New Orleans Field Division and our other federal, state and local counterparts. The citizens of the Greater New Orleans area deserve to live in peace and should not have to worry about falling prey to street gangs like the 110'ers. Today's enforcement efforts send an undeniable message to area-street gangs that their criminal activities are not welcomed here. DEA will use all of the resources at its disposal to help bring an end to the freedom of these rogue groups.

In the early morning hours, members of an apprehension squad made up of NOPD, the Louisiana State Police, and the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office arrested several defendants.

Regarding the complexity of racketeering cases, District Attorney Cannizzaro said, "While these cases are clearly more difficult to prosecute, I believe that they allow the jurors of this community to see a more complete picture of the scope of a defendant's criminal conduct. My office will continue to employ innovative prosecutorial techniques to fight the violence on our streets, and I will expect every branch of our criminal justice system to work hard to move these cases towards resolution"

Ja'On Jones and Joshua Pittman are presently wanted and remain at-large.