Leaders of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang were charged Thursday with directing killings and drug smuggling from within California’s most secure prisons, U.S. prosecutors said.
The charges detail five slayings and accuse an attorney of helping smuggle drugs and cellphones to aid the white supremacist gang.
A total of 16 Aryan Brotherhood members and associates are accused of running the criminal enterprise using contraband cellphones, encrypted chats, text messages, multimedia messages and email.
Among them are nine current inmates charged with racketeering, conspiracy and other charges, and seven people outside prison accused of assisting the gang in activities in Las Vegas and as far east as Missouri and South Dakota.
Prosecutors say a longtime leader of a rival black gang was killed just days after he was released from decades of solitary confinement.
Despite its racist philosophy, the Aryan Brotherhood had a drug smuggling partnership with the Mexican Mafia, prosecutors said.
Sacramento-based U.S. attorney McGregor Scott called the charges “a significant blow to the leadership of a violent criminal enterprise run from inside California prisons.”
“The charges allege multiple murders of those who run afoul of the gang, as well as an active drug trafficking operation that spans multiple counties and states,” he said in a statement.
Among the inmates charged is Daniel “Danny” Troxell, 66, a convicted killer serving a life sentence who was known for writing a federal complaint in 2009 that eventually led California to curb the use of solitary confinement.
Prosecutors say he formed an unusual cease-fire alliance with leaders of other blood-rival gangs to promote the complaint.
Black Guerilla Family leader Hugo Pinell, a killer with ties to the 1960s and 1970s black revolutionary movement, was among those released after 45 years in isolation, authorities said.
They say two Aryan Brotherhood associates killed the 71-year-old Pinell days after he was moved in 2015 to a Sacramento-area prison.
Pinell, nicknamed “Yogi Bear,” became infamous as one of the San Quentin 6, helping to slit the throat of prison guards during a failed 1971 escape attempt that left six dead.
His slaying four years ago triggered a riot that sent 11 prisoners to hospitals with stab wounds.
Troxell and Pinell long denied being gang members. It wasn’t immediately clear if any defendants had legal representation for the counts unveiled Thursday.
The charges also allege that cellmates Ronald “Renegade” Yandell, 56, and William Sylvester, 51, used smuggled cellphones to direct heroin and methamphetamine trafficking operations in California
Yandell, serving a life sentence for a double murder, is described as one of the gang’s three-member leadership commission, as is Troxell.
La Palma attorney Kevin Macnamara is charged with trying to smuggle methamphetamine, tobacco and cellphones.
Guards reported finding three phones, plastic wrappers and power cables concealed in the seat cushion of Macnamara’s wheelchair.
Macnamara, 39, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment and the voicemail box on his phone was full.
Authorities have been trying to bring down the Aryan Brotherhood — also known as The Brand — for decades.
The gang was formed by white inmates in the mid-1960s and has a policy of “blood in, blood out,” holding that full members must kill to gain entry and can only leave when they die, though authorities said there are exceptions. Members who don’t kill when ordered to do so risk being slain themselves.
This story has been corrected by removing the name of Todd Ashker, who is not named in the federal charges.