Sheriff Uses Cyber Laws to Target Gang Activity
The Orlando Sentinal via YellowBrix
October 13, 2010
WINTER HAVEN, FL – The Polk County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday the arrest of seven suspects connected to the production of music videos and Web pages that the Sheriff’s Office says promoted gang activity and, in one instance, depicted dog fighting.
Charges include unlawful use of electronic communications, recruiting gang membership and fighting or baiting animals.
All charges are third-degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison.
“This is the first arrest of its kind in Polk County, and among the first in Florida,” Sheriff Grady Judd said in a press release announcing the arrests. “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.”
The Sheriff’s Office’s Gang Unit developed information regarding a Internet-posted video that contained images of criminal gang promotion within Polk County. The images featured suspects displaying gang colors, tattoos and signs. During the course of their investigation, detectives discovered multiple music videos and images on websites such as YouTube and MySpace.
Detectives arrested and charged four men with unlawful use of electronic communications and recruiting gang membership in connection with the videos. They are Santana Perez, 24, of 105 Center St., Winter Haven; Domingo Garza, 25, of 111 Garza Lane, Winter Haven; Daniel Barajas, 28, of 2554 State Road 542 W., Auburndale; and Alberto Macedo, 24, who has no known address.
In one video, entitled “I’m Back,” suspects can be seen at a makeshift dog-fighting arena, according to a Sheriff’s Office report. Participants around the arena display money as they visually encourage the dogs to fight. Later in the video, Perez 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, the dogs are provoked to simulate a dog fight.
As a result of this video, three additional suspects were charged with fighting or baiting animals. They are Joshua Castillo Perez, 22, of 260 W. Hampton St., Eagle Lake; Mantana Martinez, 20, of 4026 Lake Buffum Road, Lake Wales; and Oscar Martinez, 26, of 504 S. Fourth St., Apt. 5E, Lake Wales.
The report cites other examples of videos, produced by the four alleged gang members, where gang affiliation is displayed. The displays include hand gestures, tattoos and bandanas. In addition, detectives found MySpace pages maintained by some of the suspects that feature the videos along with other gang-related information.