(bonus points for the phrase “a Federal nexus”)
Bail Agency Tied to Racist Gangs, Officials Believe
A La Habra family suspected of criminal activity may have hired thugs as enforcers. A north O.C. gang probe suggested a connection.
By H.G. Reza
Times Staff Writer
October 11, 2004
Investigators believe a La Habra family accused of running their bail-bond agency like a criminal enterprise has ties to white racist street gangs and hired some members as enforcers, according to court records and law enforcement sources.
Court records also show that authorities were led to American Liberty Bail Bonds, owned and operated by Adnan “Dan” Yousef and his family, during an investigation of white gangs in north Orange County.
An affidavit filed in the case said Yousef illegally employed at least 15 unlicensed bail agents, many of them associates of gangs going by such names as the Independent Skins, Public Enemy Number One, the La Mirada Punks and La Mirada Hesh.
Joyce Greenspan, regional director of the Orange County/Long Beach chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, said Public Enemy Number One has evolved into the largest white racist gang in Orange County.
“We’re finding that their racist beliefs are secondary. Instead of attacking minorities like in the past, these groups are more involved in running methamphetamines and other criminal activity, like trafficking money,” Greenspan said.
She said some white gangs are controlled by the Aryan Brotherhood and the Nazi Low Riders, both white supremacist groups spawned in California prisons.
According to court records, investigators contend that Yousef’s oldest son, Tarek, “is an associate of both La Mirada Punks and the La Mirada Hesh criminal street gang.” Tarek Yousef is a licensed bail agent.
Officials in the Orange County district attorney’s office declined to talk about the case or a connection between the Yousefs and racist gangs. But a court document shows that police said informants told investigators that the Yousefs and their employees were involved in “narcotics sales, money laundering … [and] the conspiracy involves two local criminal gangs, La Mirada Punks and La Mirada Hesh.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Eric Fox, a gang investigator, said deputies had frequent contacts with Tarek Yousef over the years. He said the La Mirada gangs are made up mostly of white middle-class youths who began as high school cliques beating up other kids.
Yousef, 55, and his sons — Tarek, 20; Ameer, 19; and Monther, 18 — have each been charged with several felony counts, including embezzlement, forgery and grand theft. Prosecutors also allege that the family kidnapped clients of other bail agencies to get their business. Adnan Yousef’s wife, Rayka, 58, is charged in a separate federal case with trying to move $52,000 in cash out of the country. She was detained at Los Angeles International Airport in May 2003.
Authorities allege that Yousef used felons as unlicensed bail agents who also worked as “thugs and enforcers.” They say gang members bailed out by American Liberty were given discounts in exchange for criminal favors.
Court records show that investigators believe the unlicensed agents also tricked unsuspecting families into using their homes as collateral for relatives’ bonds. The homeowners were asked to sign blank forms that were later used to place liens on their properties, investigators contend.
At the beginning, the North Orange County Target Task Force, with 150 investigators, was focused on arresting gang members and knew nothing about the Yousefs. Court records show that an informant tipped off a detective in January 2004 that American Liberty “has been involved in the past with bailing out numerous targeted gang members that our organization was involved in prosecuting.”
Investigators said they were intrigued to discover that in some cases, customers of American Liberty had paid far less than they should have for their bail bonds.
A Fullerton Police Department report, for example, shows that a defendant whose bail was set at $10,000 was bailed out May 22 by American Liberty without paying anything. Another man whose bail was $25,000 was bailed out July 10, also without paying anything to the agency. If the men had absconded, American Liberty would have owed the courts $35,000.
Officers from the gang task force began investigating American Liberty and found themselves following a complicated money trail that stretched from Southern California to the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Israel.
Investigators have tracked some $140 million the family allegedly squirreled away in foreign bank accounts, many of them in the Middle East. It’s unclear where the money came from or where it went.
Law enforcement officials involved in the investigation said the task force asked the FBI for assistance in tracking the large amounts of money but were turned down.
But FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the agency was still assessing the investigation and denied that agents had refused to assist the task force.
“We routinely assist law enforcement agencies,” Eimiller said. “What we will do in this case is to determine if there is a federal nexus and what kind of resources we can bring to the table.”