Federal law enforcement officials on Tuesday unsealed an indictment of 54 members of an alleged white supremacist gang operating in Arkansas. Charges range from kidnapping and drug trafficking to murder.
At a press conference in Russellville, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Cody Hiland said the federal grand jury indictment against the New Aryan Empire, or NAE, represents a major blow to the criminal enterprise.
"This group was formed for the purpose of maintaining and protecting the criminal enterprise through intimidation, threats of violence, and actual acts of violence," Hiland said.
Hiland was joined by officials from the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Drug Enforcement Administration in announcing the charges.
The case represents the first usage in the state in 15 years of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO Act. RICO is commonly used to prosecute members of an organized crime group for the crimes of other members of the same organization.
"RICO focuses specifically on racketeering, and allows members of an organization to be held responsible for the acts of other members," Hiland said. "It is a powerful tool that we will not wait another 15 years to utilize, both for violent crime and for public corruption and white-collar cases, when it’s appropriate."
David Rybicki, Deputy Assistant Attorney General with the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division, said the group began as a prison gang to rival other white supremacist groups like the Aryan Brotherhood, and in recent years has gained influence outside of prisons.
"To counter this threat, the DOJ's Organized Crime and Gang Section, which I supervise, is working closely with prosecutors and law enforcement across the country, to investigate and prosecute gang members who spread drugs and crime in America," Rybicki said. "As detailed in today's indictment, members of the NAE engaged in acts of violence in this community, in an effort to protect the criminal enterprise and further its goals."
The investigation into the New Aryan Empire began in October of 2017, when 44 alleged members were indicted on charges of methamphetamine distribution and illegal firearm possession.
Hiland said more indictments are expected in the coming weeks and months.