OAKLAND -- Four men charged last week in a suspected murder conspiracy plot are reputed members of a violent East Oakland gang involved in narcotics trafficking, prostitution, identity theft and fraud, police said Tuesday.
So far, 65 members or associates of the gang, including the four men, have been arrested and charged with various state and federal offenses as a result of a joint Oakland police, Drug Enforcement Agency and Secret Service case that started 18 months ago, initially as a narcotics and related violence investigation.
But authorities soon realized that the gang, which has about 100 members and claimed as its turf the areas around 82nd Avenue and Birch Street and 72nd Avenue and Spencer Street, was involved in much more criminal activity, said Oakland Officer K.C. Jones, a lead investigator in the case initiated and supervised by Capt. Ersie Joyner III.
The investigation was stepped up, and eventually wiretaps of suspected members phones were authorized by a federal judge, which led to key evidence being developed against the gang that led to the arrests.
Police Department spokeswoman Officer Johnna Watson said authorities believe "significant impact has been made in dismantling the gang. The chief players have been identified and arrested."
It was wiretaps that led to the arrest and charging of the four men in the murder conspiracy: Wynn Brewer, 30, of San Leandro; Patrick O. Shields, 29, of San Leandro, who is
Authorities said they were part of a group that hatched a plan to kill a gang rival that failed after Oakland police fatally shot two other suspected members May 18, 2011, in the Upper Fruitvale district as they were on their way to commit the killing.
Jones said some gang members are related and some live in other cities. Members range in age from 16 to the late 40s. Some of the violence, which includes killings, was related to defending turf and related gang rivalries but also occasionally resulted from personal disputes, such as over a woman. At least 22 guns linked to the gang have been seized by authorities.
Besides narcotics trafficking, one of the gang's biggest sources of income was from identity theft and fraudulent credit card activity, authorities said.
Jones said gang members would buy credit card account information "stolen from all over the world" and use it to recode gift cards and credit cards. Fraudulent credit card manufacturing systems have been seized as part of the probe.
Authorities said additional arrests are expected.