If Florida gang members are using Twitter, the new technology didn't much help Lake Worth MLK member Ricardo Rodriguez. Rodriguez, 24, who lives in a concrete block bungalow decorated with merry Christmas lights at 618 North D Street in Lake Worth, was rounded up by the Palm Beach Sheriff's office and booked on December 18, along with 11 other members of the Makin' Life Krazy gang, and slapped with Federal RICO charges.
A neighbor reports what happened when Rodriguez's house was raided that week:
I think it was last Tuesday or Wednesday morning around 6ish AM, I heard what sounded like three transformers blowing up. I looked outside the window and saw 12 heavily armed Sheriffs, two dogs and an armored truck outside my front door (going in and out of the house across the street). Lots of police lights. And finally an ambulance showed up around 7:30.
This month's arrests of top MLK members are part of a decades-long effort to curb gang-related crime under both Florida's Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (STEP) and Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organization (RICO) Act. The STEP Act, passed in 1996, states that that "it is the right of every person, regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, or handicap, to be secure and protected from fear, intimidation and physical harm caused by the activities of violent groups and individuals." The act has been broadly used in Florida to see that gang members convicted of crimes get, as Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has said, "the toughest sentences possible for these dangerous offenses."
Rodriguez has been charged with two counts of racketeering and one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering, along with armed burglary.