HOUSTON (AP) — Twenty-four people, including alleged members of a white supremacist prison gang, have been indicted in federal courts in Texas, Kentucky and Mississippi on charges related to shootings, stabbings and killings, according to authorities.
Indictments unsealed on Wednesday allege that members of the Aryan Circle committed various crimes in at least 11 states, including Texas, Arkansas, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The defendants face charges of racketeering conspiracy, violent crimes in the aid of racketeering, drug conspiracy and unlawful firearms trafficking. All but one is in custody.
The gang is a violent, race‑based organization that was started in the mid‑1980s within the Texas state prison system. In recent years, the Aryan Circle’s influence has grown beyond prisons to rural and suburban areas in various states, according to prosecutors.
According to one of the three indictments in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas, alleged gang members are accused of selling illegal drugs and high-powered weapons, including AR-15 rifles, to fund the organization’s illegal activities.
Prosecutors also allege that gang members used violence to run their operations, including killing fellow and rival gang members.
In July 2014, Aryan Circle gang members in a federal prison in Pollock, Louisiana, allegedly stabbed a fellow gang member about 40 times for selling a television remote to a rival gang for drugs, according to one of the Texas indictments.
The indictment also detailed allegations that gang members were killed over various disputes, including whether ex-members who had been removed from the gang could be contacted.
The investigation, which was led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is part of an operation against the Aryan Circle that has led to 17 previous federal convictions.
Although much of the Aryan Circle’s criminal activities are profit-driven, the gang has also committed hate crimes in and out of prisons, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
In November 2019, Texas authorities executed Aryan Circle member Justen Hall for strangling a woman. Hall also confessed to fatally shooting 28-year-old transgender woman in April 2002. El Paso police investigated the killing as a hate crime.