They belonged to the “Big Money Team.”
They called one another Tiny, Fat Boy, Smoke, Desperado and Joker, among other nicknames. They built a booming and powerful inner-city Miami criminal empire revolving around guns, crack cocaine, Molly, marijuana and prostitution, authorities said.
On Wednesday, a federal indictment charged 17 “BMT” gang members who U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said “were terrorizing” Little Havana and Allapattah with armed robberies, assaults and car jackings. They also threatened people who might talk to law enforcement, he said. Four other BMT gang members were charged in previous indictments.
“They were terrorizing these two neighborhoods and claiming them as their own,” Ferrer told the Miami Herald. “They were bragging about this on social media and offering drugs for sale on text messages.”
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Ferrer lauded the efforts of a violent-crime task force that partners Miami and Miami-Dade police officers with federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents, among others.
“I grew up in the Little Havana area,” Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa told the Herald. “Anything we can do to make it safer and clean it up is good for the community.”
He said that over the years young street gangs like the Big Money Team have moved into the historic Cuban exile community to sell drugs, generating complaints among longtime residents and businesses.
ATFE special agent in charge Hugo Barrera, who also grew up in Little Havana, agreed. He pointed out that sharing law enforcement resources and intelligence “really makes an impact” on fighting street crime and drug dealing.
In the Big Money Team crackdown, prosecutors deployed a seldom-used federal law — “violent crime in aid of racketeering” — that packages criminal offenses. “Here, we used it to cover charges that are normally not chargeable individually as federal cases,” Ferrer said.
The charges also impose harsher penalties, ranging from 10 years to life in prison, than what the defendants would face in the state criminal system.
Ferrer said Wednesday’s roundup of BMT gang members is in the spirit of a partnership forged in 2011 between local police, federal authorities and community leaders to eradicate violent criminals in troubled areas such as Overtown, Liberty City and Miami Gardens.
The indictment unsealed Wednesday named the following Miami defendants: Maurin Chacon, Christopher Altamirano, Rodolfo Portela, Dayaan Zerquera, Raymond Moore, Alioth Salas, Luis Salas, Joseph Thompson, Carlos Tinoco, Christian Ramirez, James Dixon, Steven Castro, Dwight Forte, Jay Anthony Flores, Joel Diaz, Fernando Roberto Darce and Mario Balboa.
Fourteen of the 17 defendants have been arrested. Balboa, Diaz and Alioth Salas were still at large Wednesday.
The four previously charged Miami defendants — Nadim Guzman, Angel Martinez, Kevin Diaz and Miguel Rodriguez — have pleaded guilty.