MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Three members of a violent American Indian gang known for terrorizing people from the Twin Cities to reservations in greater Minnesota, Wisconsin and beyond will go on trial Tuesday in what authorities call one of the largest gang cases to come out of Indian Country.
Wakinyon Wakan McArthur, 34, — an alleged leader of the Native Mob — and two alleged Native Mob "soldiers," Anthony Francis Cree, 26, and William Earl Morris, 25, are accused of being part of a criminal enterprise that used intimidation and violence to keep the gang in power. They face multiple charges, including conspiracy to participate in racketeering and attempted murder in the aid of racketeering.
Prosecutors said the case is important partly because of its size — 25 people were charged in a 57-count indictment — and because the racketeering charge is a tool rarely used against gangs, indicating this is an attempt to take down the entire enterprise.
"This is a major case on many levels," U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Jeanne Cooney said. "It's one of the largest, if not the largest case dealing with Native American gangs."
The 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment says the Native Mob is one of the largest and most violent American Indian gangs in the U.S., and is most active in Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota. It is made up of mostly American Indian men and boys, and started in Minneapolis in the 1990s as members fought for turf to deal drugs. The Native Mob is also active in prison.
Tom Heffelfinger, a former U.S. attorney in Minnesota who has worked to curb crime in Indian Country, said racketeering charges were appropriate in this case. While the statutes outlawing racketeering — when multiple people commit crimes together in order to benefit a criminal enterprise — were created to go after groups like the Mafia, Heffelfinger said the statute is well-suited to go after any organized criminal activity.
But Frederick Goetz, McArthur's attorney, said this case doesn't fit the bill.
"There is, and there was, no racketeering enterprise," Goetz said. "The interesting part of the case will be sorting the myth from the reality."
Goetz said many of the allegations aren't part of a conspiracy, but are sporadic, individual acts carried out by disaffected, alienated youths who have dealt with tough circumstances on reservations.
The Native Mob has about 200 members, according to the indictment, and is recruiting new ones. Heffelfinger said some recruitment happens at powwows, as recruiters use Native American culture and the "warrior mentality" to attract children.
The indictment paints a picture of a structured group that held monthly meetings where members were encouraged to assault or murder enemies, or anyone who showed disrespect.