With no warning a woman set a half-dozen thick documents on the conference table in the Fresno Police Department’s media room.
I wouldn’t have noticed amid the confusion if she hadn’t said to no one in particular, “If you want a copy, here you go.”
We’re talking about the 256-page affidavit from Michael Smith, a veteran special agent with the California Department of Justice, describing a remarkable investigation of organized crime in the Fresno area.
Key details of the investigation were revealed Thursday afternoon (April 21) at a news conference hosted by Police Chief Jerry Dyer at PD headquarters.
Dyer stood before a small army of reporters and cameras to announce the results of Operation Dog Track. A small army of officials from federal, state and local law enforcement organizations stood behind him.
You’ve no doubt heard or read the primary talking points by now. Twenty-eight people had been arrested for various federal crimes in a statewide multi-agency “takedown.” The allegations include conspiracy to commit murder, human trafficking and fraud.
A Fresno-based gang, the Dog Pound Gangsters, was the investigation’s focal point.
“The dismantling of the Dog Pound Gang’s leadership will send a shockwave throughout the gang community and significantly reduce gang violence in Fresno for many years,” Dyer said in a statement released by the state DOJ.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement: “Street gangs must be held accountable for terrorizing our communities. I’m thankful for the bravery and diligence of our Special Agents, the Fresno Police Department and other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies working together to dismantle criminal organizations and protect victims of trafficking and fraud throughout the Central Valley.”
The names of 16 of the 28 suspects were showcased on a wall during the news conference.
“It’s a beautiful sight, looking at (the names of) all of those individuals who have been arrested,” Dyer said.
Dyer said the scale of the Dog Pound Gangsters’ alleged crimes and the size of the investigation are unprecedented in Fresno history.
But it was hard for me to get a handle on events just by listening to the comments. Each allegation and fact had the feeling of the proverbial “view from 10,000 feet.”
Organizers of the news conference clearly anticipated the bewilderment. Hence the copies of Smith’s affidavit made available to reporters as the event broke up.
I grabbed one.
The Dog Pound Gangsters trial will be in Fresno’s Federal Court. Based on the allegations, oh what a trial it will be.
This is a look at Dog Pound Gangsters from the ground-level view of Smith and his Operation Dog Track colleagues.
Smith’s affidavit is too rich with drama to summarize here in its entirety. But some points stand out.
Dog Pound Gangsters is a stunningly effective money-making machine. Most of the profits apparently go to the gang’s elite.
Dyer said DPG’s weekly gross income is $40,000 to $50,000. What does that kind of money do to the mindset of a criminal when it happens week after week, year after year?
Smith in his affidavit described a phone conversation on April 12, 2016 between James York and Deandre Stanfill, both high-level Dog Pound Gangsters. York was a free man at the time. Stanfill was in prison.
“York and Stanfill then talked about paying taxes and making money in Texas,” Smith wrote. “York said he would make more money in Texas, but that he already had so much money that he doesn’t even know where it came from. York said he woke up this morning with a stack of cash on his dresser and he did not remember where it came from.”
Making that kind of illegal money can be dangerous to a gangster’s health. But, according to Smith, the Dog Pound elite makes sure the Dog Pound riff-raff does all the dirty work.
According to Smith’s affidavit, York in the phone conversation talked about how he had “hustled” to get out of the ‘hood. York said he saw no reason to risk his life and freedom doing low-class stuff on the streets.
“Stanfill told York that his situation is the same as being President,” Smith wrote. “Stanfill said, ‘You the type YD (one of York’s nicknames) that them muthaf—as should never risk, because, it’s like, you know how the Government and the President, you know, like the President send the military people to go to war, he don’t out there his God dam (sic) self…. Just like the Congress, they send the military, they don’t go out there they self man.”
Dog Pound Gangsters has its own turf in Southwest Fresno, an area near Jensen and Elm avenues. But Fresnans living on the north side of town make a serious mistake if they think Jensen and Elm is as far away as the other side of the moon.
A big part of Smith’s affidavit deals with the efforts of Dog Pound gangbangers to get guns and make plans for retaliatory shootings against a rival gang.
The Dog Pound Gangsters’ headquarters in early April for this war council was a room at the upscale San Joaquin Hotel on Shaw Avenue, just a few blocks from Fig Garden Village.
One of the gangsters asked a fellow gangster via cell phone where he should go for the big meeting.
“We at the Filthy Riches,” the other gangster said.
Fresno voters this year will go to the polls to elect a new mayor. City Hall is in the midst of vast changes. Operation Dog Track and the upcoming trials almost certainly will affect those changes.
Is inner-city Fresno to be reborn, as Mayor Ashley Swearengin promises? Or will gangs such as the Dog Pound Gangsters drive away the productive citizens, leaving only predators, prey and the hollowed out heart of a once-great community?
Let’s take a look at portions of Special Agent Smith’s affidavit. Keep in mind that the charges are allegations at this point. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
As the affidavit makes clear, Dog Pound Gangsters is a largely African-American gang. Also keep in mind that, as anyone who has attended one of Chief Dyer’s monthly CrimeView sessions knows full well, gang members come from just about every ethnic and racial group in Fresno’s diverse population.