U.S. Attorney, FBI talk about gang indictments
A sweeping, federal indictment issued in Charlotte last week identifies Pedro Gutierrez by the nicknames “Magoo,” “Inferno” and “Light.”
The 15,000 members of the United Blood Nation had their own name for the 44-year-old New Yorker, federal prosecutors say.
They call him “Godfather.”
Gutierrez is one of 83 suspected UBN members indicted last week in Charlotte, a list of names and criminal charges that runs through 25 pages of court documents. Many of those members were from Charlotte and surrounding counties.
On Monday, federal prosecutors ended any anonymity Gutierrez might have by singling him out in court as the head of all UBN operations, even as he serves a murder sentence in New York state.
UBN was born in New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail in 1993. That many of its top leaders remain in New York custody – “up top” in gang parlance – and still sign off on everything from UBN’s lucrative multistate drug and weapons sales to racketeering, robbery and murder illustrates the difficulty authorities have had suppressing the operation.
Last week’s indictment includes multiple examples of Gutierrez meeting with others to discuss gang business. The setting: a maximum-security prison in upstate New York.
Most often, the indictment says, Gutierrez’s co-conspirators in these sessions came from North Carolina.
For example, on May 8, 2011, Gutierrez discussed gang business inside Wende Correctional Facility with Cynthia “Lady Bynt” Gilmore of Raleigh, the indictment says.
Two years to the day later, Gutierrez was at it again. This time, according to the indictment, his prison visitor was Montraya “Hardbody” Atkinson, also of Raleigh.
In October 2014, the North Carolina delegation at Gutierrez’s prison included David “Gunz” Watson of Jacksonville and Bianca “Lady Gunz” Harrison of Raleigh, the indictment says.
All the while, a steady stream of money in the form of gang dues flowed into the prison accounts of Gutierrez and two other UBN leaders, known as “Big Homies” or “Original Gangsters.” In the indictment, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced it wants to drain the inmate accounts of Gutierrez, James Buxton and Omario “Uno B” Rosario. It’s not clear how much money they contain.
As with many of the suspected UBN members named in last week’s indictment, Gutierrez is charged with one count of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity, better know as a RICO violation. It carries a potential prison sentence of 20 years to life and a $250,000 fine. He is scheduled to appear in federal court in Charlotte next month.
Gang spreads through prisons
According to the New York Daily News, Gutierrez’s criminal career started early. By 17, he was already a member of Trigger Finger Posse when he was arrested for armed robbery.
Gutierrez was arrested five more times, including once on a murder charge when he shot four people and one of them died. He was convicted of second-degree murder in 1996 and sentenced to 26 years to life.
While awaiting an assault trial in Rikers Island, Gutierrez was caught seven times with weapons and stabbed or slashed four other inmates. According to the Daily News, he received what was then a record 1,040 punishment days in the jail’s segregation unit.
Prosecutors don’t say when or why Gutierrez joined UBN, which was started by several African-American inmates in Rikers Island to protect themselves from a Latino gang that was dominating the jail. Soon, UBN flowed south through prisons and via the drug trade. Now, the gang is North Carolina’s largest and a chronic threat in the state’s own prison system. In fact, the indictment details a flow of gang contraband streaming into a correctional facility near Elizabeth City.
Charlotte and North Carolina already are painfully familiar with the gang’s ability to operate from behind bars.
▪ A 2012 UBN indictment in Charlotte revealed that both the gang’s top North Carolina leader and a member of its national council in New York continued to direct the gang’s day-to-day operations while in prison.
“It’s troubling for this court that incarceration did not stop you,” U.S. District Judge Frank Whitney of Charlotte told Daryl “OG Powerful” Wilkinson, who was serving a murder sentence in New York when a Charlotte grand jury indicted him for racketeering, according to a transcript from Wilkinson’s 2014 trial.
▪ In 2014, an imprisoned UBN leader using a contraband cellphone sent more than 100 texts to direct the kidnapping of the father of the Raleigh prosecutor who put him in prison.
▪ That same year, Jamell “Murda Mel” Cureton of Charlotte, then an inmate of the Mecklenburg County Jail, ordered and helped plan the murders of Doug and Debbie London of Lake Wylie, S.C., to keep them from testifying against Cureton and two other gang members who tried to rob the couple’s mattress company.
Local crackdowns against the gang have been going on for years.
In 2009, more than a dozen reputed UBN members were charged with running drugs and weapons in the Beatties Ford Road corridor of west Charlotte.
In 2013-14, more than two dozen gang members were sent away for sentences of up to 30 years. In 2015, 12 reputed gang members were arrested in connection with the Londons’ deaths. Meanwhile, a number of reputed UBN members have been convicted of murder and other violent crimes in state courts.
On Monday, the court appearances of the gang suspects charged under the latest indictment took on a numbing sameness. Each of the shackled defendants clinked into federal court between U.S. marshals before their families or other loved ones who occupied the front row of the audience section. When the accused gang members were led away, their families would be ushered out.
Moments later, another family would walk in, just in time for the next prisoner to appear through the doorway. The delegation for Charles “Kam” Lytle of Charlotte included his sister, his fiancee and the mother of his children.
Several generations of women were on hand when 21-year-old Freddreck “Banga” Banks of Shelby was denied bond and led from the room.
“Love y’all,” Banks said as he passed within feet of his family.
“We love you, too,” one of the women responded. “Hang in there.”
One defendant was released on bond Monday. Destinee “Lady Rude” Blakeney of Morvin, 65 miles southeast of Charlotte, is charged with one count of RICO conspiracy.
She is also pregnant.
Researcher Maria David contributed.