Investigation leads to gang arrests

March 9, 2009 6:34:23 PM PDT
Seventeen people rounded up Saturday in an FBI raid on a gang known as the Taliban were arraigned in U.S. District Court in Oakland today.

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Cash, cars, and criminals all rounded up in a series of massive raids around the Bay Area. It's the result of a year-and-a-half of police work.

Many of the suspects were picked up in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park where police said the gang was based. Investigators said the gang has been around for seven years and that it kept getting bigger and stronger.

Seventeen of some 42 suspected gang members arrested over the weekend were arraigned in federal court in Oakland.

They've been charged with conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and other drug related crimes.

About 500 law enforcement officers were involved in the massive two day raids which stretched across the East Bay to the South Bay.

"I heard banging on the door and the next thing I knew it was a raid," said one of the arrested suspect's parent.

This woman did not want to be identified. Her son-in-law was arrested Saturday.

"He's a young man who's trying to make an honest living and I don't believe he should have been caught up in this. He's not part of any gang," she said.

The FBI and local police raided homes in 14 cities following an 18 months investigation. Police seized hundreds of thousands in cash, 10 vehicles, weapons and drugs.

Authorities say they broke the back of a violent local gang called the Taliban with roots in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

"Their crimes include murder, assaults, robberies, drug dealing, extortion," said East Palo Alto Police Chief Ronald Davis.

But family members ABC7 spoke with and a community leader who did not want to be identified say there is no such gang as the Taliban.

"Why are they talking about a Taliban gang? Because there is not a Taliban gang," said the arrested suspect's parent Pamela Watts.

Among those arrested was rap artist Dontae Gardner who goes by the name Scoot Dagg when he performs with the rap group Dem Hoodstarz.

His attorney says Gardner was arrested with his father and brother, Desean Gardner, the reputed leader of the gang.

"It likely those people would have contact with each other in conversations with each other which aren't necessarily in furtherance of gang activity but in furtherance of family activity," said the rapper's attorney Hugh Levine.

Police say this gang has no connection to the Taliban in the Middle East. The name was merely chosen because it instills fear. Aside from the 17 defendants who pleaded not guilty in federal court, some of those facing state charges were arraigned in the counties where they were arrested.

Others will appear in court later this week.

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