Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal
LAS VEGAS – In what authorities are calling a “major investigative takedown,” 23 people tied to the Aryan Warriors – a violent white supremacist gang operating under orders trickling from leaders inside Nevada prisons – were indicted on more than 150 charges, including drug trafficking, racketeering and murder.
An indictment unsealed last week charges two men in the 2016 murder of Andrew Ryan Thurgood at High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs.
Anthony Williams, known as “Mugsy,” and Tarik Goicoechea, known as “Torque,” now stand charged with murder and conspiring to kill Thurgood.
Thurgood, 26, was stabbed during a fight with two other inmates in a facility dayroom. He had been serving 12 to 34 months at the prison following a conviction on a felony charge of attempted possession of a stolen vehicle.
Another pair of men – Devin Campbell, known as “Soup,” and Christopher Ashoff, known as “Bullwinkle” – stand charged with the murders two men earlier this year.
Josue Lizardo Contreras-Verdin, 24, was found shot to death on a Las Vegas road, and Thomas Patrick Glenn, 49, was stabbed to death in a backyard tent.
A prison-to-street trickle down
The Aryan Warriors are an organized para-military group with operatives in both the prison system and the Las Vegas community.
Orders to street-based members to commit the crimes the syndicate is known for trickle to the outside from imprisoned leaders behind bars, according to authorities.
Unlike other white supremacist groups that are focused on spreading their ideologies, the Aryan Warriors are focused on drug trafficking, racketeering – and murder.
According to the indictment, the white supremacist gang uses violence to:
- Obtain greater access to the illegal controlled substance market
- Prevent members or others from cooperating with law enforcement
- Traffick and/or sell controlled substances
- Possess forgery laboratories, forged credit cards, forged currency in order to finance the Aryan Warriors and/or a white supremacist ideology
- Organize, manage and finance the Aryan Warriors criminal syndicate, by instructing members to commit violence on behalf of the gang.
At a Wednesday afternoon press conference, members of DEA Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, disclosed additional details about what authorities dubbed a “major investigative takedown.”
The investigation began in February.
“The mission of the joint operation was the disrupt and dismantle the Aryan Warriors’ violent impact in the Las Vegas Valley,” said John Leon, captain of the Gang Vice Bureau in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
The gang, Leon said, had been actively involved in acts including murder, robbery, battery with a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon, fraud, identity theft, drug trafficking and selling narcotics between California and Las Vegas.
“This gang is responsible for some of the worst crimes that have occurred in our community,” Leon said. “There is a distinct link between the leadership and the street soldiers of the documented Aryan Warriors and directed, for-profit violence.”
The takedown later led to the arrest of the Aryan Warriors’ main leadership and a dismantling of the gang’s drug distribution networks, Leon said.
Wrangling the warriors
On Aug. 17, federal and local law enforcement teams executed seven search warrants and arrested 10 suspects with ties to the Aryan Warriors.
Authorities seized seven guns, two bulletproof vests, one stolen trailer, three stolen motorcycles, four dismantled fraud labs and $9,700 in U.S. currency.
Throughout the investigation, authorities seized or recovered more than 30 firearms, including rifles, shotguns and handguns – many that were stolen.
They also collected four pounds of methamphetamine, Leon said, and half a pound of heroin.
“We have severely disrupted and dismantled the white supremacist criminal syndicate known as the Aryan Warriors,” Leon said.
Seven more defendants were taken into custody before the document was unsealed Wednesday. Three are sought on warrants.
The charges come more than seven years after a U.S. District Court judge in Las Vegas added 40 years in federal prison to two state sentences of life behind bars for Aryan Warriors leader Ronald “Joey” Sellers.
Sellers, now 51, pleaded guilty to committing a violent crime in aid of a racketeering offense, admitting his role in a stabbing attack on another defendant while in federal custody during a lengthy prosecution that saw 15 accused members of the white supremacist gang convicted of charges including assaults, drug offenses and racketeering.