Federal officials say “Operation Vanilla Gorilla” netted them the indictments of more than 40 people accused of having links to the “Ghost Face Gangsters” prison gang, a white supremacist group with hundreds of members active in Georgia prisons.
With a total of 43 indictments, the move against the group, which is active mostly in Georgia but has spread to some surrounding states, is one of the largest so far, according to a news release from the Department of Justice. Law enforcement have ramped up their work combating the gang for months, with 23 members indicted in March of 2018.
Most of those indicted in the most recent case are from east Georgia, and came from places like Savannah, Bloomingdale, Pembroke or Augusta, according to the Department of Justice. They are mostly in their late 20s to early 40s and had nicknames like “eBay,” “Hot Boy,” “Tina Tinker” and “Shifty.” They face drugs and weapons charges and could all face life in prison, the department wrote.
“When I was sworn in as the United States Attorney, I pledged that we would make neighborhoods safer and work hard to dismantle criminal street gangs,” said U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine in the news release. “As this indictment demonstrates, we will coordinate with federal, state and local law enforcement to identify criminal organizations; we will target them; and we will dismantle them. The Ghost Face Gangsters is a gang that started in Georgia prisons. It has spread to the free world. It is my goal to end the gang where it started.”
But what are the Ghost Face Gangsters?
The gang began in the Cobb County jail in the early 2000s, but has since spread across the state’s prisons and into the state itself as members are released, U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said, according to WXIA.
“The Ghostface Gangsters gang is very violent and their members will not hesitate to shoot at anyone,” Pak said, according to the station.
It is described as white supremacist by the Anti-Defamation League, though it says only “some” members identified as such. Federal officials also called the group “white supremacist” in a news release, though Pak said there was some dispute within the group about whether to allow black members, according to WXIA.
Information on the gang has trickled out mostly in news reports of their crimes, some of which have been especially heinous. One alleged member was arrested after a baby’s body was found stuffed in a freezer, and when police found him in Florida, he took a man hostage and was shot four times by a SWAT team, McClatchy previously reported.
The gang has been linked to the killing of two Georgia correctional officers after two inmates killed their guards and escaped a work bus in June of 2017, the Macon Telegraph reported. They were later captured.
Officials believe there are thousands of members who follow organized gang rules and operate with contraband cell phones, the Ledger-Enquirer reported after some alleged members led police on a 90 mph U-Haul chase.
So far, 41 of the 43 people charged in the latest round of indictments are in custody, the Savannah Morning News reported. Savannah director of police Roy Minter said that those 43 defendants had been arrested a combined 561 times already, according to the paper.
“This is a dangerous gang that promotes violence and profits from poisoning our communities. (The Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team) understands that working investigations collectively with our law enforcement partners maximizes the impact, puts more criminals away, and is an overall win for the citizens we are sworn to protect,” the unit’s Everett Ragan said in a news release.
“Each one of these indictments represents one or several crime victims, so we sincerely hope that this has brought some resolution to these victims, and will prevent them from becoming victims again,” Miller said, according to the Savannah Morning News.