Ten people were in custody and two more at large Thursday in connection with gang-related drug and firearms activities in Anchorage, the result of a year-long investigation sparked by a spike in violence last winter, according to prosecutors and law enforcement working the case.
Law enforcement officials are calling the indictment the first to single out the presence of a national gang in Alaska, and several of those charged in the new indictment were already in jail facing a variety of charges connected to other crimes around the city earlier this year.
At a Thursday press conference on the FBI-led sweep, Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion explicitly linked Wednesday morning's arrests, made after a year-long investigation, to a crime wave that included four shootings in a single week and prompted Anchorage police to attempt a crackdown on violent crime in the city.
"This work started in response to homicides and shootings that really ramped up in January 2015," Campion said.
Campion said four defendants named in Thursday's drug ring charges were linked to at least two shootings this year in Anchorage, one of them fatal.
Michael Reynold was previously charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Christian Haynes and Krystal Hawk, who were fatally shot Jan. 29 at a four-plex on East 41st Court. At the time of the charges, the indictment against Reynold was under seal and not publicly available. Police said at the time that the murders may have been connected to other crimes.
On May 18, a man who described himself as a member of the Bloods' rival gang, the Crips, was in a car at a parking lot on Karluk Street when he was shot twice in the arm by a man he said got out of another vehicle to open fire, then got back in and drove away. He later told police that Bloods members had made it known they didn't want Crips in Fairview.
Anchorage police later arrested Isaiah Holloway, Ishmael Holloway, and Lamont Moore in connection with that case, with Isaiah Holloway and Lamont Moore facing attempted-murder charges and Ishmael Holloway charged with tampering with physical evidence.
According to a release from the office of U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler, the 25-count indictment is the first in the state "that alleges the presence of a nationally recognized street gang." Officials say the suspects arrested belonged to a local gang known as the "Fairview MOB" that sold drugs obtained in Los Angeles -- including heroin, cocaine and crack -- in Anchorage. The local gang was affiliated with the Compton, California-based Campenella Piru Park Bloods, federal officials said.
"(M)embers of the FBI Anchorage Safe Streets Task Force executed numerous arrest warrants and served search warrants at six different locations in connection with a 25-count indictment naming 12 alleged Fairview gang members accused of drug trafficking, firearms possession and money laundering," FBI officials wrote in a statement on Wednesday's arrests.
During the press conference, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis alluded to an even wider sweep than the one suggested in the statement.
"A number of arrests have been made in the previous days," Feldis said.
Anchorage Police Chief Chris Tolley, who replaced former Chief Mark Mew at the Anchorage Police Department in October, praised Wednesday's sweep as striking a blow against criminal activity in Fairview and the city as a whole.
"The work of the task force and partner agencies has created tremendous results," Tolley said.
Kurt Ormberg, head of the Safe Streets Task Force in Alaska, described the interagency law enforcement group as "this community's hammer against violent crime," as well as gang- or drug-related crimes.
"If you are an individual involved in that, you are a nail," Ormberg said.
Ten of the suspects were in custody Thursday, officials said. The charges against them included 18 counts of distributing controlled substances, three counts of possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking, two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, and one count each of drug conspiracy and money-laundering conspiracy.
Arrested Wednesday morning were: Lamont Moore, 36, of Los Angeles, and Isaiah Holloway, 26, Ishmael Holloway, 23, Dorian Topps, 22, Michael Reynold, 23, Felton Reynold Jr., 27, Christopher Meeks, 22, Malia Green, 21, and Karl Maddox, Jr., all of Anchorage.
Two suspects -- Delano Williams, of Anchorage, and Dearon Walton, of Los Angeles -- remained at large Thursday, officials said. Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI's Anchorage division at 907-276-4441 or Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP.
According to the 24-page indictment, some of the alleged Fairview MOB members claimed to be rap artists affiliated with labels such as All Da Time Entertainment, Zaya's First Class Entertainment and YNE, which "purport to produce, perform, and promote rap artists and music." The drug conspiracy, prosecutors said, was constructed in part to fund the defendants' rap careers.
"The conspirators would obtain controlled substances from the Los Angeles, California area to distribute in Alaska," prosecutors wrote in the indictment. "All of the members of the conspiracy are involved in the sale and/or possession of controlled substances in Alaska."
The indictment alleges that the group sold at least 100 grams of heroin, and at least 28 grams of cocaine. It claims that between June 2012 and November 2015, members of the group carried several pistols, some of them stolen, and sold heroin and cocaine in at least 18 drug deals across Anchorage. Prosecutors say Isaiah Holloway, one of the group's ringleaders, established a Wells Fargo bank account in January 2013.
"Between Aug. 9, 2013, and Feb. 14, 2015, conspirators deposited approximately $130,000 of cash, primarily drug proceeds, into that account," prosecutors wrote.
Campion's office said that state authorities had some cases overlapping with the federal charges, including Moore, Isaiah and Ishmael Holloway and Michael Reynold.
"Prior to the Safe Streets arrests on Dec. 9, the Anchorage District Attorney's office and the Anchorage police had previously filed charges against several of the targets of the federal investigation," state Department of Law officials wrote. "The State of Alaska anticipates that the trials of those defendants on the state charges will take place in 2016."
Ormberg said Thursday that the local gangs' relationship to the Bloods was a branding exercise meant to emphasize the group's power.
"...If you can associate with a larger, nationally known gang, that's strength," Ormberg said.
Deirdre Fike, special agent in charge of the FBI's Anchorage office, said the investigation was the product of "strong partnerships" among local, state and federal officers including Anchorage police, state troopers and FBI agents.
Frank Russo, deputy criminal chief in Loeffler's office, said Anchorage gangs sometimes get their start in traditional high-school rivalries between parts of town. He said the presence of Bloods elements in Anchorage poses tough questions for the community at large.
"Why are young people from here emulating gangbangers from New York, Los Angeles?" Russo asked. "That's the sad part -- these are very young men who are facing a lot of jail time."
Campion made an appeal to Anchorage residents for more information on similar offenses in their areas, saying Wednesday's arrests had made it safer for citizens to come forward.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing