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Charges announced against 'Native Mob' gang

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Federal authorities on Wednesday announced racketeering and other charges against 24 people accused of being members of the 'Native Mob' gang.

All of Minnesota's correction facilities were under a 24-hour lockdown starting early Tuesday morning as state and federal investigators worked the gang case. The lockdown was lifted early Wednesday, authorities said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says six of those charged were arrested Tuesday on the White Earth, Mille Lacs and Leech Lake Indian reservations and in the Twin Cities. They appeared in federal court Tuesday. Twelve others were already in custody serving time for other crimes, and authorities said they are looking for six more.

According to the indictment, those named in the case have conspired since at least the mid-1990s to conduct criminal activity, including drug dealing, circulating firearms and engaging in violence, including murder.

All of those named in the indictment are charged with racketeering, but some of the defendants also face charges including conspiracy, assault with a dangerous weapon, attempted murder, drug trafficking and various firearms charges.

U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said federal authorities collaborated with state, local and tribal law enforcement officers on the case. He said his office is prosecuting the group under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

"This case is very complicated," he said in an interview. "It's somewhat unusual in that U.S. Attorney offices don't routinely use the RICO statutes to charge folks, but when we do the operating assumption of the public should be that these are serious charges."

Jones called the RICO statute a "heavy duty tool," adding that it's among the most serious violent criminal charges under the federal system.

Authorities said in a news release that the Native Mob is a regional criminal gang that started in Minneapolis in the early '90s. Membership is estimated at 200, and new members are regularly recruited from communities with large, young male, Native American populations, authorities said. 

The gang is associated with red and black clothing and gang-related tattoos, the news release said.

The six people who appeared in court Tuesday will have their next hearings on Thursday and Friday.

(MPR reporter Conrad Wilson contributed to this report.)