On Tuesday, October 12, 2010, Polk County Sheriff’s Office Gang detectives served two search warrants at different residences and arrested seven suspects. Charges included, Unlawful Use of Electronic Communications and Recruiting Gang Membership, and Fighting or Baiting Animals. All charges are third degree felonies, punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office Gang Unit developed information regarding a video posted on the Internet which contained images of criminal gang promotion within Polk County. The images featured suspects displaying gang “colors,” “tattoos,” and “signs.” Through their investigation, detectives discovered multiple music videos and images on websites such as YouTube and MySpace.
The suspects were utilizing produced music videos, and slide shows set to music, depicting gang members demonstrating their gang affiliation and bolstering the status the gang.
In addition, three additional suspects were arrested and charged with Fighting or Baiting Animals, also a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
Detectives have charged the following suspects with Unlawful Use of Electronic Communications (F3), and Recruiting Gang Membership (F3) under FSS 874.11:
· Santana Perez, aka “Krazy G,” DOB 06/28/1986, 105 Center Street, Winter Haven
· Alberto Macedo, aka “Speedy,” DOB 10/17/1985, No known address
· Domingo Garza, aka “Riddler,” DOB 03/05/1985, 111 Garza Lane, Winter Haven
· Daniel Barajas, aka “Lucky,” DOB 05/04/1982, 2554 Highway 542 West, Auburndale
All four suspects are previously documented gang members within the same gang. Detectives recognized the suspects as a result of prior contact. The suspects were using their positions within the gang to promote their own financial endeavors, as well as, promote gang affiliation.
“This is the first arrest of its kind in Polk County, and among the first in Florida,” said Sheriff Grady Judd. “Working with the State Attorney’s office, we are sending a clear message to the gang bangers, if you try to further gang interests or advertise gang presence, or intimidate or harass anyone in Polk County using the Internet, or any other electronic communications medium, we will arrest you, and you will go to jail. Social networking sites have provided unprecedented access to youth over the years. In 2008 the Florida Legislature enacted laws to reduce gang presence on the Internet, and attempt to limit their access to our youth by outlawing the use of electronic communications to advertise their presence in the community.”
CRIMINAL GANG ENFORCEMENT AND PREVENTION
874.05 Causing, encouraging, soliciting, or recruiting criminal gang membership.
(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), a person who intentionally causes, encourages, solicits, or recruits another person to become a criminal gang member where a condition of membership or continued membership is the commission of any crime commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(2) A person who commits a second or subsequent violation commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
874.11 Electronic communication Any person who, for the purpose of benefiting, promoting, or furthering the interests of a criminal gang, uses electronic communication to intimidate or harass other persons, or to advertise his or her presence in the community, including, but not limited to, such activities as distributing, selling, transmitting, or posting on the Internet any audio, video, or still image of criminal activity, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
In the video entitled, “I’m Back,” suspects can be seen at a makeshift dog fighting arena. Participants around the arena display money as they visually encourage the dogs to fight. In the same video, Perez is seen exiting the area of the main booking facility of the Polk County Jail. Later, he is observed sitting on the sign of the Polk County Court House performing to the camera. His style of dress in the video is consistent with the criminal gang with which he is affiliated.
Later in the video, he is seen standing inside an above ground swimming pool with two Hispanic male subjects holding Pit Bull dogs on heavy gauge chains. As Perez performs his music, Joshua Perez and another suspect appear behind Santana Perez. They are holding the dogs and are simulating a dog fight. The dogs are visibly provoked by the activity. The spectators in the video are demonstrating gang affiliation through the use of bandanas in the color consistent with the criminal gang in question as they display money and appear to encourage the activity.
Detectives charged the following suspects with Fighting or Baiting Animals (F3) under FSS 828.122:
- Joshua Castillo Perez, DOB 01/17/1988, 260 West Hampton Street, Eagle Lake
- Mantana Martinez, DOB 02/03/1990, 4026 Lake Buffum Road, Lake Wales
- Oscar Martinez, DOB 08/07/1984, 504 South 4th Street, Apartment 5/E, Lake Wales
ANIMALS: CRUELTY; SALES; ANIMAL ENTERPRISE PROTECTION
828.122 Fighting or baiting animals; offenses; penalties.
(1) This act may be cited as “The Animal Fighting Act.”
(2) As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Animal fighting” means fighting between roosters or other birds or between dogs, bears, or other animals.
(b) “Baiting” means to attack with violence, to provoke, or to harass an animal with one or more animals for the purpose of training an animal for, or to cause an animal to engage in, fights with or among other animals. In addition, “baiting” means the use of live animals in the training of racing greyhounds.
(c) “Person” means every natural person, firm, copartnership, association, or corporation.
(3) Any person who knowingly commits any of the following acts commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084:
(a) Baiting, breeding, training, transporting, selling, owning, possessing, or using any wild or domestic animal for the purpose of animal fighting or baiting; (b) Owning, possessing, or selling equipment for use in any activity described in paragraph (a); (c) Owning, leasing, managing, operating, or having control of any property kept or used for any activity described in paragraph (a) or paragraph (b);(d) Promoting, staging, advertising, or charging any admission fee to a fight or baiting between two or more animals;(e) Performing any service or act to facilitate animal fighting or baiting, including, but not limited to, providing security, refereeing, or handling or transporting animals or being a stakeholder of any money wagered on animal fighting or baiting;(f) Removing or facilitating the removal of any animal impounded under this section from an agency where the animal is impounded or from a location designated by the court under subsection (4), subsection (5), or subsection (7), without the prior authorization of the court;(g) Betting or wagering any money or other valuable consideration on the fighting or baiting of animals; or (h) Attending the fighting or baiting of animals.
In a video entitled, “Lleva Me Contigo” (Spanish for take me with you), Garza and another subject identified Alberto “Speedy” Macedo begin a song with portions of the Lord’s Prayer mixed into the lyrics. During the video, approximately 20 subjects can be seen in the background displaying a hand gesture consistent with the criminal gang in question, as well as further demonstrating their gang affiliation through the use of bandanas.
At one point in the video Garza is seen showing a tattoo on his left arm that is consistent with the criminal gang in question, and is also seen holding a plastic baggie which appears to contain marijuana. Also seen is this video, is Daniel “Lucky” Barajas.
Macedo and Garza are partners in their music endeavor with Garza seemingly the more popular of the two. Macedo promotes his gang affiliation with Garza in the music video “Lleva Me Contigo.” Macedo also has a MySpace page that demonstrates his gang affiliation and has numerous photos depicting Macedo and Garza using hand gestures and displaying tattoos consisted with the criminal gang in question.
Barajas maintains a personal MySpace page, as well as a MySpace page for “Hood Certified Entertainment.”
His personal MySpace page depicts Barajas validating his gang affiliation through the use of hand gestures, and clothing and bandanas consistent with the criminal gang in question. Barajas’ personal MySpace page is the subject of this investigation. Within his personal page he admits, via posts, that he is gang affiliated, and has been since 1994.
The MySpace page for “Hood Certified Entertainment” promotes the music of several local “underground” or non-commercial rap groups. One of these groups is known as “TKN.” And while the Entertainment page is not currently being investigated, PCSO detectives have documented a member of the group TKN as a known gang member. All four suspects have previous criminal arrest histories.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office has been proactively educating the community and combating gang activity since the early 1990s.
Currently we have anti-gang detectives assigned to investigate gang related crime who are members of a Multi-Agency Gang Task Force or MAGTF. We also have a proactive Community Oriented Policing team working in the Poinciana area. We work cooperatively with the Polk Board of County Commissioners utilizing a graffiti eradication program. Our Crime Prevention Unit provides educational information to the community focusing on reporting suspicious activity immediately.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office Gang Unit is responsible for identifying gang members and monitoring their activity in Polk County. The goal of the anti-gang program is to respond to possible issues before they become problems, such as the eradication of graffiti. Gang Unit detectives conduct an aggressive gang graffiti eradication program with “paint outs” occurring regularly. Gang Unit detectives, assisted by Patrol deputies; continue to educate the public on gang activity and deal quickly with gang related crimes.
Gang Unit detectives provide training to other agencies and education and information to civic groups, schools and the general public. Public education is provided to assist parents/guardians in identifying the early signs of possible gang activity in their children so immediate preventive action can be taken.
To combat gangs and gang activity we encourage parents to stay actively involved in their children's lives and we encourage residents to continue to be active in their communities and report any criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement.
An effective tool against gang activity is eradicating graffiti vandalism. Vandals have no respect for private or community property and no regard for the negative impacts of their actions. Their aim is to impress their peers and strengthen their reputations by putting their graffiti tags in as many places as possible. Graffiti that is left intact attracts more graffiti – and the longer it remains, the greater the gratification for perpetrators. It also suggests a community that does not care or is unable to deal with the problem.
Residents can help us stay on top of graffiti and vandalism by taking measures to prevent it and if it does occur, by making sure it is cleaned as quickly as possible. Contact the PCSO Graffiti Eradication Program at 863-534-6200 from 8 am to 5 pm. After 5pm you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.