Federal prosecutors said on Tuesday that a white supremacist gang in Arkansas in the United States attempted to violently silence witnesses to the group’s methamphetamine trafficking, including permanently disfiguring one person’s face with a hot knife.
US Attorney Cody Hiland said a new round of indictments in the ongoing case, which were unsealed on Tuesday, named 54 members of the New Aryan Empire, a white supremacist organisation that began as a prison gang in the 1990s but now engages in narcotics trafficking, witness intimidation and acts of violence including attempted murder, kidnapping and assault.
Indictments were originally returned in October 2017 accusing 44 members of the gang with drug and gun crimes.
The latest charges name additional members and add counts for alleged involvement in violent crimes committed by the group, including kidnapping a person and attacking another with guns, bats and knives.
Prosecutors said that during the federal and state joint investigation, agents made 59 controlled purchases of methamphetamine and seized more than 25 pounds or 11kg of meth, in addition to 69 guns and $70,000 in drug proceeds.
“The violence and hatred alleged in this superseding indictment have no place in society,” Hiland said while announcing the new charges at a news conference in Russellville, about 60 miles (97km) northwest of Little Rock.
The new indictments were returned under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act, which targets criminal organisations and provides for extended criminal penalties and civil action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise.
Hiland said charges against the organisation’s leaders and members had inflicted “significant damage” to the group that he said had trafficked “copious amounts of methamphetamine” in the state. He said additional charges were possible.
Officials said the investigation was launched in 2016 following a murder involving members of the New Aryan Empire.
Officials said 35 of those charged are in custody and another 16 were previously released on bond. Three others, all from Russellville, have not been arrested.
Nicki Nicolo, defence attorney for Jeffrey L Knox, who is identified in the indictment as one of the leaders of the gang, did not immediately return a telephone call from the Associated Press seeking comment.
Among other things, the indictment alleges that Knox, 43, of Russellville, was part of drug sales and the attempted murder of a suspected law enforcement informant. Authorities said Knox is in federal custody.
In November 2018, federal authorities carried out a spate of raids on white supremacist gangs in Georgia and Florida, as reported by the Daily Beast.
In Pasco County, Florida, 39 suspected affiliates of the Unforgiven and Aryan Brotherhood prison gangs were arrested after a years-long investigation uncovered 110 illegal weapons, among them rocket launchers and bombs, and a large quantity of meth and fentanyl.
Meanwhile, federal authorities rounded up and indicted 43 members of the Ghost Face Gangsters white supremacist prison outfit, the Daily Beast added at the time. They were charged with weapons and drug charges.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies