U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy told the Los Angeles Times that the 22 suspected gang members and friends busted in San Diego (pdf) this month on suspicion of sex-trafficking were involved in a “grotesque version of a legitimate business model.”
It is not an unfamiliar corporate structure to anyone familiar with the “Sopranos.” The fed press release said they were “akin to a crime family” and were charged with violating racketeering laws “traditionally used for organized-crime syndicates and mobsters.” The investigation stretched over two years.
The multi-state prostitution ring allegedly used around 100 girls, many of them from Grossmont Union High School District, as the centerpiece of an operation that included drug trafficking, robberies, commercial burglaries and various forms of assault. The girls’ ages ranged from 12 to mid-20s and some were in middle school.
That sort of behavior is, unfortunately, not unheard of among criminals. What makes this gang stand out is its organization.
The “Tycoons” are actually a collection of known members of separate gangs who have joined together to divvy up turf and responsibilities in a more organized and efficient fashion. The U.S. Attorney lists eight gangs, including the West Coast Crips, Neighborhood Crips, Linda Vista Crips and Emerald Hills Crips. But they’re not all Crips. The 5/9 Brims, O’Farrell Park, Lincoln Park and Skyline Piru are also represented.
The gangs split up responsibilities for procuring girls, transportation, advertising, booking of rooms, handling money, dealing drugs and busting heads, according to the U.S. Attorney. Some members monitored law enforcement and others monitored girls run by other pimps. Girls were sent as far away as Michigan, Kansas, Arizona, Nevada and Texas.
The indictment describes the Tycoons as “primarily comprised of African American gang members from cliques and subgroups distinct to the Enterprise: Tycoons/Additup, Play Girl Fantasy (PGF) and Break Yo Bitch (BYB),” The enterprise was formed by four founding members in 2008.
“Many members of the Tycoons claim to be ‘rappers’ and produce rap music and rap videos,” the background section of the indictment reads. “Members of the Tycoons have created various rap groups and support each other in the promotion of their music.” That does not, on its face, appear to be an indictable crime.
But the prosecutor may return at some point to the lyrics that “primarily focus on pimping activity and narcotics related activity in San Diego County and across the country.” Many of those indicted are all over Facebook, YouTube and other social media promoting their work.
More than 150 law enforcement officers from state, local and federal agencies were involved in the raids.