“ABT uses extreme violence and threats of violence to maintain internal discipline and retaliate against those believed to be cooperating with law enforcement,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer. “Through violence and intimidation, ABT allegedly exerts control over prison populations and neighborhoods, and instills fear in those who come in contact with its members.”
As an example, Breuer said that alleged ABT leader Kelly Ray Elley and others ordered subordinates to kill a prospective member and to make the killing “as messy as possible” to send a message to gang members not to cooperate with law enforcement. Elley also allegedly ordered gang members to return the man’s severed finger as a trophy.
“Today’s takedown represents a devastating blow to the leadership of ABT,” Breuer said.
In an investigation led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, more than 170 law enforcement agents fanned out across Texas and North Carolina on Friday to arrest 14 of the 34 ABT members who were charged. Another 15 were already in custody, and five remain at large.
The defendants range from senior leaders to soldiers of the ABT, a whites-only prison-based gang with members operating in and out of state and federal prisons across the country, Justice officials said. The group was started in the 1980s within the Texas prison system and modeled itself after a similar Aryan Brotherhood gang formed in the California prison system during the 1960s.
Originally, the group was concerned with the protection of white inmates and the issue of white supremacy. But over time, ABT allegedly expanded its criminal enterprise to include illegal activities for profit, according to court documents.
The group has a detailed organizational structure, court documents show, with territory divided into five regions, each run by a “general.” The documents allege that the ABT enforced its rules and promoted discipline among its members, prospective members and associates through murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, arson, assault, robbery and threats against those who violated the rules or posed a threat to the enterprise.