Tuesday, October 12, 2010

YouTube, MySpace used to recruit gang members, 7 arrested in Polk

By Henry Pierson Curtis and Walter Pacheco, Orlando Sentinel

Music videos with 20 'extras' flashing gang symbols, staging dog fights and singing of gang life

YouTube and MySpace videos promoting a Polk County street gang resulted in the arrests Tuesday of four men on charges of illegal use of the internet to recruit gang members and other crimes, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
The suspects are accused of staging dog fights and producing music videos and slide shows to glamorize gang life.
"This is the first arrest of its kind in Polk County and among the first in Florida," Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement. "We are sending a clear message to the gang bangers, if you try to further gang interests or advertise gang presence, or intimidate or harass anyone in Polk County using the Internet…we will arrest you and you will go to jail."
The arrests began early Tuesday and ended by 10 a.m.
Santana "Krazy G" Perez, one of the main targets of the investigation, appears in a video entitled, "I'm Back," according to the agency.
He and three others were charged under a 2008 state law that prohibits the use of electronic communication to promote the interests of a criminal gang by posting "any audio, video, or still image of criminal activity."
The video shows Perez, 24, of Winter Haven, leaving the Polk County Jail, perching on a sign outside the Polk County Court House in Bartow, and later standing in the center of a dog fighting pit. Copies of the video and other photographs collected during the investigation were not released Tuesday.
In that video, the sheriff's office said Perez performs music in an empty, above-ground swimming pool while about 20 suspect gang members wave cash in the background and appear to be encouraging a staged fight between two heavily chained pit bulls.
"The dogs are visibly provoked by the activity," a report states. "The spectators in the video are demonstrating gang affiliation through the use of bandanas in the color consistent with the criminal gang in question as they display money and appear to encourage the activity."
In a second video entitled "Lleva Me Contigo" (Take Me with You), two of the men arrested Tuesday flashed gang-related clothing and tattoos as music including portions of the Lord's Prayer played along with other lyrics, according to the sheriff's office.
The sheriff's office declined to identify the street gang by name. Police agencies across Florida do not release gang affiliations out of a belief that such information promotes gang members' criminal reputations and attracts new members.
"To disclose the name of this specific gang, we'd only be marketing for them," the sheriff said in a telephone interview about his gang suppression tactics. "Our goal here is no undue recognition. We don't have the gang problem here one could anticipate. I'm proud to say you can drive through this community…and it's not wrought with gang graffiti."
The seven suspects arrested Tuesday include Daniel "Lucky" Barajas, 28, of Auburndale, who has been in the vicinity or a suspect in several violent crimes in northeast Polk County, according to the sheriff's office.
On New Year's Eve in 2007, Barajas was working as a DJ at a party at the Carver Recreation Center in Bartow when a large fight broke out, a young man was killed and a motorist later died in a head-on collision with someone fleeing the party, according to the sheriff's office.
An admitted gang member since 1994, Barajas was charged with another of the suspects arrested Tuesday - Domingo "Riddler" Garza, 25, of Winter Haven – with a near-fatal beating with a pipe last year, according to the sheriff's office.
Garza previously was charged with a gang-related shooting outside Barajas' booth at the Auburndale Flea Market when two bystanders were wounded in the legs, according to the sheriff's office.
The others arrested on Tuesday were Alberto "Speedy" Macedo, 25, unknown address, Joshua Castillo Perez, 22, of Eagle Lake, Mantana Martinez, 20, and Oscar Martinez, 26, both of Lake Wales, according to the sheriff's office. They are charged with fighting or baiting animals, a felony.
Joshua Perez, the younger brother of Santana Perez, was arrested on an additional charge of battery Tuesday morning for fighting inside a holding cell after he had been picked up by deputies. The younger Perez started beating Garza in the cell after his older brother flashed him a hand sign telling him to jump Garza, Judd said.
Santana Perez, Judd said, is the star of the "I'm Back" video glamorizing drug sales, drug use and he "actually challenges people to come into his hood to fight."

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