Thirty-one members and associates of a notorious Boston-area street gang are facing federal RICO charges alleging they committed a slew of crimes including murder, robbery, drug dealing, and sex trafficking, authorities said Tuesday.
During a news briefing, US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said the suspects from the Dorchester-based NOB gang are associated with the Wendover Street gang and have been involved in “violent feuds” in the Boston area for more than 20 years. A number of NOB gang members and associates charged in connection with the case were arrested Tuesday, while others were already in custody.
Lelling’s office said 20 members and associates of NOB have been charged with crimes “including racketeering (‘RICO’) conspiracy, violent crimes in aid of racketeering, drug trafficking, crossing state lines for the purpose of prostitution (the Mann Act), firearms charges and bank fraud.”
Two additional associates were charged previously with drug trafficking and gun violations, prosecutors said, and nine more people were charged with conspiring to distribute controlled substances, including fentanyl, in a drug conspiracy linked to NOB.
“Today we saw that organized crime is no match for law enforcement,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, the FBI special agent in charge of the bureau’s Boston office, in a statement. “As alleged, many of the individuals arrested today have engaged in a ruthless and senseless string of attacks and murders, terrorizing the communities in which they operated all across the state.
Suspects were apprehended in communities including Boston, Lynn, Everett, and Fall River, and 11 search warrants yielded multiple firearms including an AK-47, Lelling said.
“This operation was intended to dismantle the NOB gang and take the most violent members” off the street, Lelling said.
He said NOB members have threatened rival gangs over social media and actively planned “retaliatory violence.” One suspect, Michael Brandao, Lelling said, has produced rap videos “openly discussing” shootings and murders on behalf of NOB. It wasn’t immediately clear if Brandao had a lawyer.
“We will continue pursuing the RICO statute” to charge gang members who “sell drugs and shoot each other on a regular basis,” Lelling said. “These efforts improve the quality of life of people who live in these neighborhoods.”
Boston police Commissioner William G. Gross also addressed reporters and said it was “a great day,” noting suspects arrested on federal charges aren’t released as quickly as those charged at the state level.
“I don’t expect to see these individuals out on the street the next day wearing a bracelet,” Gross said, adding that gang members were frequently charged federally during the city’s “horrible, violent times” in the 1980s and 1990s.
Neighborhood residents, Gross said, are “tired of this. They deserve better.”
“We have your back, even in a time of anti-police sentiment,” Gross said. “We will do our jobs. … We know the good folks in the community have our backs too.”
Bonavolonta said during the briefing that some NOB suspects committed crimes as far away as Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The gang members “made a living committing armed robberies and dealing drugs” and tried to gain respect within their ranks “by shooting and murdering their rivals,” Bonavolonta said.
Specifically, he said, NOB has long been embroiled in a violent feud with the Cameron Street gang, a rivalry “akin to the Hatfields and McCoys.”
A 16-year-old girl was among NOB’s sex trafficking victims, he said, and the guns seized Tuesday included a firearm used in a 2016 shooting incident at UMass Dartmouth and a firearm matched to eight separate shootings, according to Bonavolonta.
“We must keep sustained pressure on gangs like NOB,” he said, through strategic use of RICO statutes to “remove repeat offenders” from their communities.
“The members and associates of this vicious gang will now have to answer for their horrible crimes,” he said.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.