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Hit list led to wave of O.C. arrests

Police and a prosecutor were targeted by a group with ties to racist prison gangs, authorities say.

December 16, 2006|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

This week's arrests of 57 people allegedly tied to a white supremacist gang were sparked when authorities learned of a hit list with the names of an Orange County prosecutor and five police officers, an investigator said Friday.

Anaheim Police Lt. K. Switzer said authorities learned of the list last month. He said the probe began when another Orange County police department learned that one of its officers had been targeted by Public Enemy Number 1, a street gang involved in identity theft, credit card fraud and methamphetamine sales. The group has ties to the racist Aryan Brotherhood and Nazi Low Riders prison gangs.

Switzer said investigators were trying to determine why those six people were targeted and if it was a gang edict or the work of a single gang member.

"It's not uncommon to hear that gangs are upset with the law enforcement community, but to hear specific names of officers who are threatened is unique," Switzer said. "That crosses the line and gets our attention."

He said one of those targeted was a gang prosecutor from the Orange County district attorney's office but declined to name the individual. District attorney spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder declined to comment.

Switzer said the list included the name of an officer who supposedly worked in Anaheim. However, he said, no one by that name worked for the department. "We were still concerned," Switzer said. "It seems they had the wrong name, but we don't know why they targeted our department," he said.

He also declined to name the other departments whose officers were on the list.

The investigation began about a month ago, Switzer said, and 10 arrests were made before Thursday's sweep. More arrests are expected, he said.

Public Enemy Number 1, also known as PEN1, "is rapidly gaining prominence due to [the gang's] violent nature and attacks on police officers," according to the California Department of Justice's 2004 report on organized crime in the state. The report said the group has about 200 members in California and is "one of the most powerful and fastest-growing gangs inside and outside prison."

A law enforcement source who requested anonymity said PEN1 was especially dangerous because members had obtained personal information about judges, prosecutors and police officers. The source said someone affiliated with the gang stole personal data while working at a company that had access to such records.

The gang started in Long Beach in the 1980s, and its membership grew rapidly, particularly in Huntington Beach and southern Orange County, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks racist groups. The league said Public Enemy Number 1 leads a coalition of white supremacist groups called the Southern California Skinhead Alliance.

The Thursday sweep involved about 300 officers from about 25 agencies, including the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service. Switzer said authorities raided about 75 locations throughout Southern California.

The arrests were peaceful, and officers seized two handguns, a shotgun, a rifle and small amounts of drugs, he said.

hgreza@latimes.com

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