Inside an upscale suite at the San Joaquin Hotel near Fig Garden Village, leaders of a notorious Fresno gang – the Dog Pound – bought guns and talked about killing rivals.
For more than 15 years, the gang has made money by selling drugs and luring foster children and runaways into the prostitution trade with promises of freedom and riches, but kept them in check with beatings and threats of death.
The human trafficking trade netted the Dog Pound more than $30,000 per week, police say. And it wasn’t the gang’s only lucrative criminal enterprise.
Gang members manufactured fraudulent credit cards and used them to rip off businesses in Fresno and elsewhere to the tune of more than $1.45 million, according to a 258-page affidavit in Fresno federal court that led to the April 21 arrest of key leaders and other members of the Dog Pound gang.
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer called the multi-agency gang sweep “the largest and most impactful gang operation in this city’s history,” resulting in the arrests of more than two dozen Dog Pound members.
A criminal complaint accuses many of them with conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering; sex trafficking of a minor by force, fraud or coercion; fraud and conspiracy; transporting women and girls interstate for prostitution; using motels and hotels interstate to promote prostitution; and being felons in possession of firearms.
If convicted, many of them will face life in prison.
U.S. District Court records in Fresno show that 18 members or associates of the Dog Pound face federal criminal charges from the recent crackdown. Charges against the other suspects could be filed at a later date in state or federal court.
Federal prosecutors likely will convene a grand jury this week in order to indict them, said Fresno attorney Jeff Hammerschmidt. He represents Kenneth Wharry, 33, who was arrested in the crackdown.
Hammerschmidt said Friday that he was not ready to talk about the case because he still is reviewing the affidavit. He cautioned that the affidavit is law enforcement’s version of the evidence against the gang. The real evidence, Hammerschmidt said, will be the transcripts of the wiretaps that intercepted more than 5,000 telephone calls and text messages between gang members, informants, prostitutes and friends.
“It’s going to be a long process – no doubt,” Hammerschmidt said of sifting through the evidence.
The affidavit calls the gang the “Dog Pound Gangster” (DPG) and says its key leaders include Wharry, James York, Trenell Monson and Deandre Stanfill.
During the gang sweep, Dyer said, about $50,000 in cash and 17 vehicles – including a Bentley, a Range Rover, a party bus and a boat – were seized. Only one gun and no drugs were recovered in the sweep, which Dyer said was expected, because experienced gangsters knew not to keep drugs and guns in their homes, instead opting to pay subordinates to carry out shootings on their behalf.
The affidavit says Dog Pound members had other ways to keep ahead of police, including: Members would spy on a crime scene to see which witnesses were talking to officers; and when detectives picked up the trail of gang members in cars, the driver would drop his passenger at a store and then drive away.
York was arrested April 21 in Tucson, Ariz., and is awaiting extradition to Fresno.
The affidavit alleges that York, 39, is the top boss of the Dog Pound and that Stanfill, 35, is calling shots from Kern Valley State Prison near Delano, where he is serving time for assault with a semi-automatic firearm and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Stanfill uses a cellphone from within the prison walls to talk to York and others in the gang, the affidavit says.
Old gang, new ways
The Dog Pound formed in the early 1990s and is composed primarily of African American males, the affidavit says. There are about 200 members whose turf, commonly know as “The Pound,” generally is bounded by Jensen, Annadale and Elm avenues and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in southwest Fresno.
A 2008 Fresno County Superior Court injunction that prohibited Dog Pound members from gathering in that neighborhood forced many of them to relocate to other parts of Fresno, as well as to Clovis, Madera, Los Angeles and Sacramento, the affidavit says.
“While younger DPG members continue with street level criminal activities, including armed robberies and drive-by shootings, the older DPG members have transitioned to more sophisticated criminal activities such as credit card fraud, human trafficking, identity theft and narcotic sales,” the affidavit says.
The affidavit highlights what investigators heard and read in those 5,000 telephone calls and text messages. Beyond the expected cursing, there’s slang words like “thang,” which means a gun; “loaner,” a borrowed gun; and “stick,” referring to a magazine. “Two for seven” means two guns for $700. “A 20 amp” or “30 amp” means the 20-bullet or 30-bullet clip.
Gang members use nicknames such as Dre, Pae Dae, York Dog, Nachi and Dook.
Ways of prostitution
A large portion of the affidavit is devoted to documenting the gang’s prostitution enterprise, which is advertised on Internet sites. “The young females are often from broken homes and commonly have been in the foster or group home system,” the affidavit says. “They are promised love, money, a family atmosphere and a carefree lifestyle.”
But once lured into prostitution, the girl’s pimp keeps the profits and begins “to terrorize the female through fraud, coercion, emotional manipulation, threats to her or her loved ones, and various forms of violent punishment,” the affidavit says. Eventually, Dog Pound prostitutes “hit rock bottom and get to a point where they no longer care about their own lives.”
Another portion digs into the Dog Pound’s feud with rival gangs including the Muhammad Family, Villa Posse, Strother Boys, Klette Mob and Fink White Deuces. The Dog Pound is aligned with such gangs as Modoc Boys, Garrett Street Boys, Northside Pleasant, East Lane and U Boys.
It’s unclear when the feud with rival gangs began, but the war intensified for the Dog Pound when Wharry was shot and wounded in Fresno on March 23. Police say Wharry was driving his car when a drive-by shooter shot him. The bullets grazed his back.
Retaliation was on their mind when Dog Pound leaders rented a suite at the San Joaquin Hotel on West Shaw Avenue (one gang member calls it the “Filthy Riches” in a telephone conversation with another gang member) on April 7, the affidavit says. Since then, there have been a number of shootings between the Dog Pound and its rivals, which led members to talk about the police cracking down.
“So obviously there (sic) are gonna come at you all,” an associate tells a Dog Pound member, according to the affidavit. “Cause you all (are) the only ones who out here doin something. MODOC not doing nothing. Garrett not doing nothing, the U not doin nothing, the Northside not doin nothing … the only thing you hear about is the Dog Pound, the Dog Pound, the Dog Pound.”
Dissension in ranks
The wiretaps also reveal dissension in the Dog Pound ranks. In one, Stanfill chides younger Dog Pound members, saying they spend too much time on Facebook and accusing them of “Internet banging.”
“Stanfill was expressing frustration at the posturing and lack of willingness by younger members of the group to engage in acts of violence,” the affidavit says.
York also was unhappy with his younger troops, saying they were using drugs instead of dealing them. In one wiretap, York and Stanfill talk about how the conflict with rival gangs started over money. The affidavit says York and Stanfill, when they were younger, “kept up the hustle and they may have had a shooting here or there.”
“We eliminated a lot of people, man,” Stanfill told York, according to the affidavit.