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Ogden • They've said they can recruit anyone into their gang, according to the court documents charging them with crimes.
They have tagged their moniker Titanic Crip Society in spray paint throughout northern Utah counties, prosecutors say. They've fired guns at rival gang members, sold drugs and started prison fights.
And now six men accused of being members of this relatively small gang are being targeted by Weber County prosecutors. They have been charged in state court with a pattern of unlawful activity, a crime similar to the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO.
The gang has been around northern Utah since the 1990s, according to charging documents, and their membership fluctuates between 10 and 20 members. Prosecutors say they hope the new criminal charges will help curb dangerous activities.
"We believe a targeted prosecution of their leadership has the potential to disrupt their activities and terminate their existence as a criminal street gang," Deputy Weber County Attorney Branden Miles said in an interview.
Six men Tamer Ahmed Hebeishy, 32, Sharif Ahmed Hebeishy, 35, Sadat Ahmed Hebeishy, 34, Daniel Ray Lopez, 25, Brock Adam Pickett, 28, and Jaron Michael Sadler, 21 have all been charged in Ogden's 2nd District Court with first-degree felony pattern of unlawful activity with a gang enhancement.
If convicted as charged, the men face five-to-life prison sentences. Lawyers for the defendants did not return calls seeking comment Friday.
Miles said it's a new approach for Weber County prosecutors in tackling gang crime. It's also the first time the county's prosecutors have attempted to stymie a gang as a whole since the Utah Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a citywide gang injunction against the Titanic Crip Society's rivals, Ogden Trece.
'Gangster lifestyle' • The Titanic Crip Society is quasi-local, according to Miles, in that it started in Weber County, but is modeled after other Crip gangs throughout the country.
Members wear light blue, and apparently chose their name "to represent the might and strength of those who make up the body of membership," charging documents state.
Police began investigating the gang last year, when officials began to see a "troubling increase" of crime committed by its members, according to a Weber County attorney's office news release. In the last year, investigators from the county attorney's office, the Ogden-Metro Gang Unit and Strike Force and the local FBI Violent Crimes Task Force relied on confidential informants, wiretapped telephones and other means to charge the six men with a pattern of unlawful activity.
"Those involved in this case spent countless investigative hours, assets and expertise in an effort to combat a problem that poses a significant threat to our communities," FBI Salt Lake City Supervisory Special Agent John Barrett said in a news release. "Violent gangs plague our streets with drugs, violence and other criminal activity and the FBI remains dedicated to disrupt and dismantle such groups."
In court documents, prosecutors outline the rules of being in the gang.
There are "Big Homies." They are the gang leaders.
And there are "Little Homies," the younger members who commit crimes at their superiors' command.
The three Hebeishy brothers are Big Homies, prosecutors say, and are likely Titanic Crip Society's longest-standing members. They consider Ogden Trece their enemies. The rivalry was sparked in 2007, when an argument with a Trece member ended in a shooting that disabled Sharif Hebeishy, though court documents don't specify how he is disabled.
Court documents say members are told to attack any Trece member they encounter.
"Members are promised that if they ever kill an enemy (and are subsequently caught and convicted), they will be financially supported by the gang while serving a sentence of incarceration," charging documents state.
Prosecutors say the Hebeishy brothers have organized the gang in a way that keeps them far away from any actual criminal activity, but they are instrumental in planning, directing and encouraging crimes.
"It is in this way they are able to observe/portray a 'gangster' lifestyle while not fully exposing themselves to the risks of criminal charges," prosecutors wrote in charging documents.
Confidential informants have told police that the gang's recruiting process is "gradual, almost predatory," prosecutors wrote. Recruiters draw in people, typically juveniles, with marijuana, alcohol and friendship and purposefully pick prospective members who come from "broken" families or have nothing to lose.
All six of the defendants are behind bars; most are at the Utah State Prison serving time for other crimes. Sharif and Tamer Hebeishy are in prison for drug crimes, while Sadler is serving a prison sentence for obstructing justice, unlawful sexual activity with a minor and attempted assault of a police officer. Lopez is in prison for discharging a firearm, and Pickett is serving a sentence for attempted assault of a prisoner and aggravated assault. Sadat Hebeishy is the only named defendant who is currently being held at the Weber County Jail.
All six of the men have court hearings this month.
A new approach • Weber County prosecutors tried to curb gang crime in 2010 by targeting the Ogden Trece gang through an injunction. The measure forbid members from associating with one another in public, along with other curfew restrictions and limits on carrying weapons or graffiti tools.
At that time, prosecutors argued that the injunction was appropriate to address the gang, which they say had become a nuisance in the community. Defense attorneys for individuals targeted by the restrictions claimed it violated their constitutional rights.
The Utah Supreme Court tossed the injunction in 2013, but not because of any constitutional argument. Instead, the high court found a service issue: The county did not properly serve the injunction and lawsuit to the "officers" or "agents" of the organization, as required by law.
Miles said the county is considering whether to bring back the injunction, but for now is focusing on the racketeering case targeting the Titanic Crip Society. He declined to say whether the county is pursuing legal action against any other gang.
"With the Supreme Court's guidance, we know how to properly serve a gang," he said. "We have just been focused on the gang that has recently given us the most significant criminal activity."
Miles said this is the first state case he's aware of that targets gang leaders for racketeering, though there has been a handful of federal RICO cases filed. Most recently, the Tongan Crip Gang was charged in 2010 with federal racketeering charges, and before them, 15 alleged members of the Tiny Oriental Posse were indicted in 2006. In 2003, members of the Soldiers of Aryan Culture were charged, while members of the King Mafia Disciples were charged with RICO crimes the year before that.