58 Face Federal Charges for Erie Drug Trafficking Operation Tied to Violent Street Gang
A total of 58 people face federal charges for their role in an Erie drug trafficking operation tied to a violent street gang, law enforcement officials announced Friday.
"Never before have so many offenders been charged in a single indictment in Erie," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Kaufman. "Never has the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) been used in Erie to combat the activities of a violent neighborhood street gang."
Investigators say 22 of the suspects are part of and Erie gang known as 4-Nation.
A federal grand jury returned the 30-count indictment May 30. It was unsealed Thursday when some 250 members of law enforcement set out to make the arrests.
Investigators said the charges and arrests have dealt a major blow to the 4 Nation gang and drug organization, which operated out of the east side of Erie for at least the last decade. 47 were taken into custody including the leaders, members, drug suppliers and associates tied to the gang.
The drugs in the trafficking operation came from California, Arizona and Mexico and were sold in Erie, other northwestern Pennsylvania counties and across state lines in Ohio and New York, according to law enforcement.
Members used the threat of violence including drive-by shootings and assaults to protect the gang's territory from rival gangs and drug distributors, investigators said.
The FBI led the investigation, which consumed what they called an "incredible number of resources." It involved court-authorized wire taps on the phones of key gang members. Money, firearms and drugs were also seized with search warrants.
"This gang has brought violence and despair to our neighborhoods," said FBI special agent Michael Nordwall. "They peddled drugs and they used violence to control the streets with no regard for the innocent."
Members were identified as gang members through the use of its terminology, symbols and gestured, according to investigators.
22 of the defendants are accused of racketeering as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise (RICO conspiracy) since at least 2012, and all are accused of conspiring to distribute controlled substances from August 2021 until recently.
One of the defendants - Javar Beason Jr. - faces charges for interstate travel in aid of a business enterprise involving drugs and monetary transactions associated with criminal activity. Another - Antwon Arrington - is accused of maintaining a drug-involved premises.
Several defendants were indicted for possession of fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine, possession of firearms by a convicted felon and use/carrying of a firearm to further a drug trafficking crime.
The U.S. Department of Justice said the indictment is the result of a year-long investigation which started with a look at violence in the community and quickly zeroed in on the 4 Nation gang.
In making the arrests, federal agents say they were able to recover 150,000 fentanyl pills, 100 pounds of methamphetamine, and other drugs.
"The sheer amount of narcotics that didn't hit the street as a result of the team work in this case is staggering." said Homeland Security Philadelphia special agent Bill Walker.
Officials called the indictment historic, saying never before have so many people been charged in a single indictment in Erie, and this is the first time the RICO statute has been used in Erie to combat a street gang. They said they believe the arrests will help reduce violence.
"The public should know that we'll continue to work with our partners to investigate, identify, and hold accountable those who deal death and devastate our families." said Walker.
Here's a look at the names, charges and sentences each faces if convicted:
Watch Friday's news conference detailing the case: