The seven men indicted this week on drug and racketeering charges are part of a violent gang that called itself "773" after the address on Thigpen Road in Gadsden County where they grew up, investigators said.New details on the gang surfaced Thursday during a news conference at the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office. Also, state officials announced a new initiative to crack down on gang activity.The gang members have been tied to at least three homicides, said Lt. Jim Corder. Also, investigators believe the gang was bringing up kilos of cocaine from South Florida each month. At one point, the gang controlled all the street-level drug trade in Sawdust, a rural community of about 500 to 700 residents seven miles outside Quincy.
And the gang is involved in drag racing in the county, but it has been difficult for law enforcement to catch them in the act."It happens very quickly, (and) it happens at undisclosed locations," he said.The Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement seized cash and several accessorized vehicles with a total value of about $200,000 with the help of the U.S. Marshal Service, Florida Capitol Police and the State Attorney's Office.Five of the gang members were arrested this week. Another two are at-large and wanted. The seven are ringleaders and the original members of the gang, Corder said.The men were indicted last month in Orange County by a statewide grand jury on charges of criminal racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and conspiracy to traffic in marijuana, authorities announced Wednesday. Those arrested are Terrance Shorter, 28; Quintarius Shorter, 25; Gabriel James, 26; Aaron Thomas, 29; and Daltonica Shorter, 33. Chief Judge Kathleen Kroll of West Palm Beach set bail at $1.5 million each. The men will be transported on an undisclosed date to Orange County, where they will be tried, Corder said.James and Quintarius Shorter are also facing first-degree murder charges in connection with the 2001 shooting death of Travis Sentel Green, 21. The gang also is suspected of being behind the 2004 shooting death of Melvin Lamar Northern, 24.Investigators are still looking for suspected gang member Ladipo "Chad" Bethea, who's wanted on a first-degree murder charge in connection with the death of a Huntsville, Ala., man. The man was shot Jan. 13 after an illegal street race in Birmingham. Investigators haven't identified the other wanted gang member.The indictments were the result of a three-year probe that began when investigators decided to take a closer look at cold-case murders in Gadsden County, said FDLE Special Agent Supervisor Chris Hirst.Now, deputies are working with school officials to keep young people from joining the gang. "Wannabes" as young as 13 are being initiated, which usually means they're beaten for several minutes and then required to commit a crime, from a home-invasion robbery to battery.FDLE will be forming a Gang and Habitual Offender Strike Team to combat gang-related crime, which isn't limited to Gadsden County."Gangs are on the rise all across the area," Hirst said. "There are other gangs similar to this one that have been operating for some time."