Affidavit Places Spotlight on Gang

Henri E. Cauvin, Washington Post, April 18, 2009

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Federal prosecutors thrust a spotlight on the gang [the Black Guerilla Family] Thursday by unsealing indictments against 24 alleged members and associates, including Brown, Williams and four current or former state prison employees.

BGF, as it is known, was founded in 1966 in San Quentin State Prison in California. It is the biggest and most powerful prison gang in Maryland, where its smuggling operation is unrivaled, authorities said.

“The BGF runs the prison system when it comes to controlling contraband,” said Capt. Phil Smith, assistant director of the state prison system’s intelligence unit.

In Maryland, BGF has been involved in extortion and the smuggling of drugs and other contraband, sometimes with the help of guards, often for the purpose of selling to other inmates, prosecutors say. The gang’s leaders have also indulged more decadent tastes, arranging for deliveries of champagne, salmon and crab imperial.

But after decades of operating primarily behind bars, BGF has been establishing a bigger presence on the streets of Baltimore, expanding its footprint into the city’s volatile narcotics trade, prosecutors said.

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Traditionally, the gang’s members have been older prisoners, in their 30s and 40s, who are serving longer sentences, Smith said. They remain its leaders, but as the group has branched out into Baltimore, it has recruited younger members as well, Smith said. “You have to have your foot soldiers who you need to do the work,” he said.

Like other prison gangs, it is also enlisting people without criminal backgrounds who can, for example, obtain jobs in prisons, Smith said.

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Organized along paramilitary lines, the BGF has a charter, code of ethics and oath of allegiance, according to government documents.

Brown recently published “The Black Book–Empowering Black Families and Communities.” According to the publishing company’s Web site, the book is designed to make people “aware of the vision of comrade George Jackson”–the founder of BGF–“and the struggle that he lived and died for.”

A BGF member who is cooperating with investigators told them that the book is a ploy to make the group appear legitimate, according to an affidavit filed in support of the charges.

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