Federal and local authorities hailed yesterday's arrests of alleged gang members at the Lenox Street development as a major blow against the crime and violence that has made residents virtual prisoners in their own homes, in a complex where gang members boldly took over entire hallways for joint-smoking parties and didn't think twice about getting into gun and knife fights.
But an affidavit by the lead ATF agent in the case paints a different picture: One of revolving-door justice where gang members get out of prison - or just skip pre-tril bail - and return to Lenox Street to pick up where they left off, selling heroin, Ecstasy, crack and guns, and defending their turf against perceived slights from other gangs leaving residents no better than before a sweep, no-trespass orders from the BHA be damned:
In 2011, the residents of Lenox contacted the Boston Police Department to request help in attacking drug dealing from the hallways and other areas of the Project. That investigation resulted in 21 arrests. In 2012, ATF and BPD did another South End investigation that resulted in more Lenox Street, Villa Victoria, and Annunciation Road Gang members being charged with drug and firearm offenses.
Unfortunately, the problems at Lenox associated with gun and drug activity have persisted. Although crime in District D-4 went down in 2015, Lenox was still considered to be one of the city's 10 hotspots for violence for that year. The Boston Police Department's Boston Regional Intelligence Center identified 30 shootings and over 75 reports of shots fired in the area of the Development between March of 2012 and June of 2015. During the course of our operations, two of the Targets were shot and a third was murdered, all around the area of the Development. BPD's BRIC has also identified Lenox as being one of several areas of the city involved in an uptick in year-end violence between December 4, 2015 and January 7, 2016, when there were 28 people shot including 5 fatal shootings and has identified the Lenox Street Cardinals as being involved in two of the City's most active gang disputes in 2015.
The Lenox Street Cardinals and smaller gangs that also operate out of Lenox have become so entrenched that the ages of the people arrested this week range from their early 20s into their 30s. And the gangs show no signs of going away, continuing to recruit young members, ATF Special Agent Peter Kelley writes. He asked a federal judge order even the youngest members held without bail, despite their lack of long records, because:
[T]he activities described herein are adversely affecting the quality of life for hundreds of people who live in and around the Development and the Targets simply will not conform their conduct to the requirements of the law.
They are also a violent bunch: Of the 19 people indicted by a federal grand jury this week, Kelley writes, 11 have been shot or stabbed, some more than once. In a 2014 YouTube video, one alleged gang member, Ellis Santos, showed off the scars from the 23 bullets he took in a single 2010 incident. In fact, the feds and BPD originally had 20 people under surveillance last year, but one got murdered.
Santos shows off scars in a 2014 rap video that feds say shows several other gang members at Lenox:
The sweeps were aimed at what are technically two developments next to each other between roughly Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue in lower Roxbury - Lenox and Camden - and overlooking Ramsay Park, which gang members turned into an open-air drug bazaar so blatant that Mayor Walsh made cleaning the park up one of the goals in state-of-the-city address in January:
I was moved when a group of young people came to see me at Ramsay Park in the South End last summer. They told me what it was like to grow up right next door to a park that was too unsafe to use, and how they've been working to fix that. They are here tonight. I'm happy to tell them: because of your advocacy, and with your input, we are going to completely renovate Ramsay Park.
"It is ATF's hope that these investigations are a positive step in that direction," Kelley writes in his affidavit.
But Kelley's affidavit repeatedly highlights how difficult that will be, through short bios of the 19 people charged in federal court - another 8 face state charges. Typically, they have long records; many show them repeatedly returning to Lenox despite "no trespass" orders from the BHA. Take, for example, Byron Alexander, whom the indictment says goes by "Shizz," and the affidavit says is known as "Buns." He was allegedly recorded selling crack to an informant at Lenox Street last year despite a "no trespass" order by the BHA - his indictment this week was for that sale:
Approximately one hour after that buy, he was arrested on a state warrant and 21 more bags of crack cocaine were recovered from him at booking. ...
Alexander has a lengthy criminal record that includes convictions for a 2015 Assault and Battery, a 2011 conviction for Possession to Distribute Class D, and a 1997 group of convictions that included Involuntary Manslaughter, Armed Robbery, and Assault with a Dangerous Weapon. Alexander was sentenced to 10-15 years on the latter group of convictions. BPD records also indicate that Alexander was shot in 2012 in the area of the Lenox Street Housing Development.
Or take Pablo "Migo" Moreta:
PABLO MORETA, a/k/a “MIGO” is an identified member of the Lenox Street, Mass Ave. Tremont Street, and Villa Victoria Gangs who sold Ethylone (which he described as the “pure form of ecstasy”) and two firearms (one of which was a starter pistol) to the CW inside the Lenox Street Housing Development. Moreta was shot in 2012 and ordered out of BHA Properties on January 2, 2015. His record includes 2 drug distribution convictions and he currently has multiple cases pending against him, two of which he has already admitted to committing.
Complete Lenox affidavit (7.1M PDF).