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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Richard Valdemar

Richard Valdemar

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

Roots of the Armenian Power Gang

The Armenian Power gang came into the spotlight with a massive federal sweep in mid-February.

March 01, 2011  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author

In America, few criminal gangs can claim any real cultural, religious, or political roots to their native culture. The Armenian Power gang may be an exception to the rule.

The Armenian people have a culture rich in intellectual and religious history. They claim to be the descendants of Noah because his great ark landed in the Ararat Mountain Range, according to the Jewish and Christian scriptures. This land became known as Armenia. Armenians were also known as the Hai people or Haik. They warred against the ancient Assyrian armies from the Old Testament times.

The Armenians also claim to be the first Christian nation. Before Emperor Constantine's Edict of Milan in AD 313 proclaimed tolerance for the new Christian religion, Jesus' Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew converted the Armenian King Tiridates the Great to Christianity. Surrounded by powerful pagan cultures, Tiridates ordered all his subjects to Christian conversion and baptism in AD 301. And it seems that the Armenian people have been at war ever since.

In AD 451, they repulsed the invasion of Persian King Yazdegerd II, who tried to convert the nation of Zordaster. This was followed by Islamic Persian and Arabian invasions. They also fought the Greeks, Turks, and Mongol hordes.

During the Christian Crusades, Armenians assisted the Crusaders and further alienated their Muslim neighbor nations. In the 20th century, the Great Turkish Ottoman Empire attempted to illuminate the Christian Nations of Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece, and Armenia in the Balkan Wars of 1912.

However, the greatest Armenian tragedy occurred between 1914 and 1922 during the Great Genocide. The Armenian people were disarmed. Their intelligentsia was systematically murdered, and (by even a low Turkish estimation) over 2 million Armenians were slaughtered. The remainder were stripped of their property, forced into exile, and marched into the Syrian Desert to die. This Armenian Genocide was joined later by the ruthless Russian Bolshevik purges.

It should also be noted that several times in Armenia's tragic history their Christian allies and the rest of the civilized world failed to come to their aid.

All those years of oppression and invasion and subjugation under one tyrant after another spawned among the Armenians a culture that prized operating covertly, a culture adept at outsmarting the invaders and forming secret alliances with some of their enemies in order to insure the survival of the Armenian people. This meant that the Armenians often operated in the black market among their Muslim, Christian, and Godless Communist enemies. This could also be why this underground covert trading often involved weapons trafficking.

So what does this trip on the "way back" machine mean to me as a law enforcement officer today? Flash forward to Jan. 27, 1973, when Los Angeles Turkish Counsel General, Mehmet Baydar, and his Deputy, Bahadir Demir, are murdered in a Santa Barbara hotel by Gourgen Yanikian. This is the first of a decades-long chain of attacks, bombings, and assassinations perpetrated by an organization calling itself Justice Commandos Against Armenian Genocide (JCAG).

These attacks have occurred in Vienna, Austria; Paris, France; Zurich, Switzerland; Istanbul, Turkey; Rome, Italy; Madrid, Spain; and The Hague in the Netherlands.  But more pertinent to you, a car bombing occurred in 1980 at the United Nations Plaza in New York. In Los Angeles, a Turkish travel agency was bombed.

In June 1981, a bomb exploded at the Orange County Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif., and in November of that year the Beverly Hills Turkish Consulate was bombed.  Turkish Consul General Kemal Arikan was shot to death at a stop light in Los Angeles on Jan. 28, 1982. New England's honorary Turkish Consul General Orhan Gunduz was shot in Somerville, Mass., in May of 1982.

In 1982, the JCAG hit Lisbon, Portugal, in June; Ottawa, Canada, in August; Bulgaria in September; and Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in March of 1983. These attacks continue to this day.

You may be tempted to ask, are these mentioned attacks the acts of politically motivated international terrorists?

The answer is yes and no. In the Armenian underground community, the lines between criminal gangs, organized crime groups, and terrorists (or vigilantes) are not always clear. There's generally a fierce pride and desire to bring their people's persecution and genocide to the world's attention, and to punish the perpetrators of the horrific war crimes committed against them. Even the organized crime groups and criminal gangs are influenced by this history.

In 1994, a federal task force in Los Angeles covertly monitored meetings ordered by the Mexican Mafia leadership. These meetings involved representatives appointed from hundreds of street gangs under an alliance called Sur (Spanish for south) or Sureño (Spanish for southerner). This Sur or Sur13 alliance began in prison for Latino gangs loyal to the Mexican Mafia and opposed to Norteños (Spanish for northerners) who were loyal to the Nuestra Familia prison gang.

From 1992 to 1993, Mexican Mafia member Peter "Sana" Ojeda began calling for meetings in El Salvador Park in Orange County, Calif. Los Angeles Mexican Mafia members soon required meetings for Los Angeles gangs. Since these meetings would inevitably include members from rival gangs, conditions to attend mandated no drinking or drug use and that those attendees not be armed.

Armenian Power (AP-13) gang members, although not Latinos, were part of the Sureño alliance and attended these meetings. At one such meeting in a Los Angeles park, an AP-13 gang member was obviously drunk. Dressed like a traditional Mexican American cholo, he had a large pistol tucked into the front of his oversized khakis. Ernest "Chuco" Castro confronted this AP-13 member for ignoring the meeting regulations. When the AP member bristled at the scolding, "Chuco" backhanded him and simultaneously plucked the weapon from his waistband. We would later recover that weapon in a search warrant. It was a fully loaded MAC-11 submachine gun.

In Los Angeles, the Armenian Power street gang was linked not only to the Sureño alliance and the Mexican Mafia prison gang, but also to their elders in the Armenian organized crime groups. Their criminal activity was centered around the cities of Glendale, Burbank, and Hollywood. The AP also had alliances with the Italian and Russian organized crime groups. They often victimized members of their own community, and supported the radical politically motivated acts of groups such as the JCAG. This was much like the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang's support for Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army's terrorist cell.

Mexican Mafia defector Gerald "Bouncer" Fernandez, who operated in the San Fernando Valley, bragged to me that his whole crew was made up of Armenians. He said that his stepfather was Armenian and had introduced Bouncer to the AP. He said that most of them also had organized crime connections. This organized crime access meant that his crew became involved in more sophisticated crimes such as identity theft, extortion, heavy weapons trafficking, and black and gray market trafficking in stolen vehicles.

On Feb. 16, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles announced that federal indictments were filed against the Armenian Power Transnational Organized Crime Group. A total of 99 defendants were charged with a wide range of crimes including kidnapping, extortion, bank fraud, and narcotics trafficking. Seventy were charged under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statutes. In one scam alone, more than $2 million was stolen by AP in the installation of sophisticated credit card "skimming" devices at 99 Cent Only Stores. A second indictment charged 20 defendants in Orange County.   

The Los Angeles Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force that included federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies called this "Operation Power Outage." Dozens of additional defendants were being sought in Miami and Denver. During this two-year investigation, AP was found to have ties to Russian and African American gangs also.

This indictment may also be important to you if you work custody or in a state or federal prison, because the AP is flexing its muscles there. With its ties to international drug and weapons traffickers, and organized crime groups around the world, the AP organization is forming power groups or security threat groups in the nation's jails and prisons. Some of the defendants in this case were found in possession of contraband cell phones in custody continuing their criminal business.


Russian Organized Crime: The Foundation for Trafficking

Feds Arrest 81 Armenian Power Gang Members In Three-City Sweep

Comments (5)

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5

Brow Down Armenian Pride @ 10/11/2011 4:28 PM

Case of unsolved Armenian Mobster "Erick Volonski" and the
$ 300000 ATM Fraud (Skim) in Southern California solved!


steven @ 4/29/2013 5:18 PM

Absolute scum whom I pray rot in hell for eternity for alll the mothers tears that they have caused....corrupt, rotten scum who stole from the Armenian community....muyrid koonem tashnag shoon er...your day will come

steven @ 7/1/2013 11:59 PM

A dirty filfthy organsiation which is based on brainwashing and mind control....they used to collect protection money from my relatives in Lebanon so they could pay for their whores in USA, Canada and Australia, they have sent the Armenian School broke.....

Lowkey213 @ 10/30/2014 11:23 PM

First off, to officer SL. For one your a disgrace to the badge, even criminals respect righteousness. Righteousness doesn't discriminate, the problem is you break the laws you pretend to protect, and you just showed law enforcements mentality to Armenians as a whole. You don't think we know when we are pulled over for being Armenian? And yet you want us to bow down, history shows we stand proud, we don't bow. Second, for good or bad, everything has it's reasons and effects. To those, especially those Armenians calling groups like AP scum. Do you realize the only reason you were able to maintain your culture in places like Hollywood was because of them, your sons gave their lives and futures to dominate an area so your daughters can walk home from school without being sexually harassed by other ethnic groups. So your kids can go to school and not worry about being bullied and punked so they can educate themselves and brighten all out futures. AP made it where you can get arrested and go to jail in some of Americas hardest jails and prisons and come out in one pieces. Go back to the late 80's and 90's, you think you called 911 for help? The racist police like the one leaving comments up there. No you relied on your people, after all a man takes care of his own problems right? But 15 years later, now Armenians are many and suddenly those sacrifices are forgotten right? Yet neither law enforcements mentality has changed towards you, and your belittling comments are kept to yourself when you get your DUI and hit county, suddenly so and so from AP was your friend. My point is think, legality isn't morality and morality isn't legality. That's why our us soldiers come back shell shocked from war, cause a license to kill doesn't make it OK to do so does it, a necessary evil none the less of which sacrifice is praised. So Don't forget the hard times when your living good, and don't forget the good when your living hard. E Hollywood made me, what made you?

Jack Kalpakian @ 4/2/2016 5:34 AM

Overall, a good piece on the Criminal Justice aspects of AP. The historical references are totally off however and reflect the author's superficial knowledge about Armenian life and history. It is a typical "White" piece about Armenians. I will however commend the author for his effort to come to grips with Armeniandom, although he fell short.

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