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Monday, 11 May 2009

Regional anti-gang task force has arrested eight reputed members of the United Front gang.

Regional anti-gang task force has arrested eight reputed members of the United Front gang.Armed with search and arrest warrants, local, state and federal law enforcement authorities began Thursday morning rounding up the reputed United Front leaders, member and associates.All but two individuals — a 17-year-old boy wanted for distribution of cocaine and 23-year-old Dione Neves — were arrested. Police seized cocaine, marijuana, prescription pills and drug paraphernalia.Five reputed United Front members who were named in federal indictments detailing the gang's history of drug dealing, shootings and street violence were already in custody on other drug and firearm charges.During a press conference Thursday at the Bristol County District Attorney's Office, task force members commented on the two-year investigation that targeted two of the city's neighborhood gangs."This is the most violent group of individuals in the city of New Bedford," said U.S. Attorney Glenn MacKinlay, accompanied by more than a dozen detectives, prosecutors, police officials and politicians."We deem them to be violent gang members and we're using the federal and state drug laws to put them in custody," MacKinlay said.Thursday's sweep followed a yearlong investigation of the United Front gang that was spearheaded by the FBI and the Southeastern Massachusetts Gang Task Force.The investigation began in April 2008, around the time that the Monte Park probe was winding down. In that case, 22 reputed Monte Park affiliates were charged with drug dealing and firearm charges.In 2007, the task force targeted the Latin Kings, who controlled large segments of turf in the near North End. Thirty alleged Latin King members and associates were arrested.FBI Special Agent Warren T. Bamford said the task force is "committed" to the New Bedford region."This is a team that's here to stay."As in the prior stings, investigators who worked the United Front case used cooperating witnesses — wearing hidden cameras equipped with audio — to purchase varying amounts of crack cocaine from the defendants named in the federal indictments.Detectives also gained access to the suspects' MySpace pages, submitting in their affidavits online pictures that the suspects had posted of themselves flashing the "W" — West Side — hand sign.The following reputed United Front members were federally indicted for distribution of cocaine: Tyson Britto, 24, John "Boogs" Burgos, 30, John C. Burgo, 22, Aaron Livramento, 24, Dione Neves, 23, Michael Vega-Cruz, 21, Shameka Clement, 25, and James Miranda, 42.Terrell Baptiste, 23, also was indicted. He was in custody, having been arrested earlier in the investigation at a stash house on Jean Street. Last March, authorities seized a half-kilo of crack, a .40-caliber handgun, ammunition, $5,000 in cash and a police scanner.
Two teenage boys — both over 17 but juveniles at the time of the alleged offenses — and three adults were arraigned in New Bedford District Court on charges of cocaine distribution.Felicia Almeida, 35, Manuel Rebeiro, 19, and Dwight Majette, 31, were charged in District Court.Rebeiro was arrested last November with another reputed Monte Park gang member for allegedly robbing a man at gunpoint and then shooting at him when the victim tried to chase after them in his vehicle.

According to court records, Rebeiro was a drug runner at the United Front housing projects. He allegedly sold a "burn bag" — containing fake crack cocaine — to a confidential informant last year.All of the federally indicted suspects are in custody except Neves, who escaped in a vehicle when a state police trooper approached him Thursday morning. The trooper was on foot when he first confronted Neves, who was in his car and immediately fled. Neves remained at large Thursday night.In addition, when police arrived to execute their search warrant, Tyson Britto allegedly tried to discard a moderate amount of white powder cocaine from his apartment window. However, the cocaine fell near the feet of law enforcement officials who were outside the residence.The investigation's stated principal goal was to break the cycle of retaliatory violence.The United Front — also referred to as West Side — and Monte Park gangs are fierce rivals. Police say both groups are responsible for a series of retaliatory shootings and homicides over the past several years.According to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, 55 of 136 fatal and non-fatal shootings from 2006-08 occurred in the area of United Front or Monte Park.
The alleged revenge shootings usually are committed against any random gang associate seen in the rival's territory without any prior planning or targeting of specific individuals, police said.Citing statistics that show fewer shootings and homicides in the past two years, New Bedford Police Chief Ronald E. Teachman said the gang arrests also have a "calming effect" on the city's neighborhoods."These arrests will put a major dent on the United Front gang's operation," Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter said during Thursday's press conference.
The gangs finance their operations through dealing drugs that they obtain from states beyond Providence, the known source for many of the narcotics, especially heroin, that come into SouthCoast, police said.MacKinlay said the task force is investigating the gangs' drug supply, indicating the network extends south of New York and New Jersey.In addition to the drug network, investigators hope the gang roundups will help shed light on several unsolved homicides in New Bedford.The federal affidavit includes a partial list of murders that investigators say are connected to the gang violence. They include: Dana Haywood in July 2005; John Burgos in May 2006; Bernadette "Bunny" Depina in May 2006; and Antonio Semedo in June 2006.
The last gang-related murder in New Bedford occurred when William "Buddha" Payne was gunned down in the South End on Feb. 3, 2008. Payne was considered a leading member of United Front.That murder and several others — including Pina, who was killed in bed days after her son was arrested for the Burgos homicide — remain unsolved. Sutter said he was hopeful that Thursday's arrests would help detectives obtain new information to solve those cases."This is going to help," Sutter said


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