Criminal Investigation (CI) is increasing its focus on international tax compliance.
International investigations encompass a wide range of activities such as abusive tax schemes, narcotics, non-filers, money laundering, and terrorism funding. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with international law enforcement partners as well as federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to investigate financial fraud.
The following examples of investigations with international links are written from public record documents on file in the court records in the judicial district in which the cases were prosecuted.
Wife of Bookmaker Sentenced for Conspiracy to Defraud the Government
On September 26, 2016, in Boston, Massachusetts, Rafia Feghi, who was born in Iran and lives in Newton, was sentenced to 12 months and two days in prison. Feghi also signed over all of the funds of a Liechtenstein account (now worth more than $1 million) to the United States government. Feghi pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and to obstruct justice. According to court documents, Feghi is the wife of Joseph Yerardi, Jr., a previously convicted bookmaker. Over more than 25 years, Feghi hid hundreds of thousands of dollars that her husband, Joseph A. Yerardi, Jr., earned from illegal bookmaking and loansharking, to evade a $916,000 forfeiture order and a $50,000 fine that were imposed on Yerardi when he was sentenced in 1995 on a federal racketeering conviction. Feghi used multiple accounts under various names, first in Canada, and eventually in Liechtenstein. From 2010 to July 2016, Feghi and co-conspirators repeatedly lied to the courts in Liechtenstein and the United States in attempts to hide the true ownership and source of the funds.
Och-Ziff Capital Management Admits to Role in Africa Bribery Conspiracies and Agrees to Pay $213 Million Criminal Fine
On September 29, 2016, in Brooklyn, New York, Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC (Och-Ziff), and its wholly-owned subsidiary, OZ Africa Management GP LLC (OZ Africa), entered into resolutions to resolve criminal charges and agreed to pay a criminal penalty of more than $213 million in connection with a widespread scheme involving the bribery of officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Libya. Och-Ziff entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in connection with a criminal information charging the company with two counts of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), one count of falsifying its books and records and one count of failing to implement adequate internal controls. According to the companies’ admissions, in late 2007, Och-Ziff employees began discussions with a businessman operating in the DRC about entering into a partnership based on special access to lucrative investment opportunities in the DRC involving the country’s diamond and mining sectors. The businessman gained access to these attractive investment opportunities by making corrupt payments to senior government officials in the DRC. The businessman paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to DRC officials in exchange for investment opportunities that resulted in more than $90 million in profits for Och-Ziff.
U.K. Citizen Sentenced for Role in Overseas Investment Scam
On August 29, 2016, in Buffalo, New York, Martin Rhys-Jones, a citizen of the United Kingdom, was sentenced to 72 months in prison and ordered to pay $2,897,130 in restitution. Jones was previously convicted of laundering money derived in a wire fraud conspiracy. According to court documents, Jones, who was extradited from Spain, oversaw a “boiler room” scam in Barcelona, Spain, which conned investors in the United Kingdom and Canada into buying nearly worthless shares of restricted stock at severely inflated prices. Customers were told they were buying more valuable, regular shares of stock. Approximately 250 investors lost more than $2,900,000 in the scam. A portion of the criminal proceeds were funneled through a bank account in Western New York before being sent to numerous overseas accounts controlled by Jones and his co-conspirator, Arnold Wrobel, a former resident of Buffalo. Wrobel was convicted in December 2015 and is awaiting sentencing. A total of 12 defendants were arrested in the case, four have been convicted.
Bulgarian Citizen Sentenced for Role in $6 Million Tax Refund Scheme
On June 2, 2016, in Newark, New Jersey, Vanyo Minkov, a citizen of the Republic of Bulgaria, was sentenced to 46 months in prison, two years of supervised release and was ordered to pay restitution of $2,702,555. Minkov previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to file false and fraudulent tax returns. According to court documents, in late 2012, Minkov and his conspirators hacked into the networks of at least four accounting firms and stole the 2011 tax filings for over 1,000 of the firms’ clients. Minkov and others then used the stolen information to file fraudulent tax returns in the clients’ names for the 2012 tax year or sold the information to others for the same purpose. To date, the IRS has identified over $6 million in fraudulent claims made in connection with the scheme.
Liberty Reserve Founders Sentenced for Laundering Hundreds of Millions of Dollars
On May 13, 2016, in Manhattan, New York, Vladimir Kats was sentenced to 120 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Kats previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, two counts of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business, receipt of child pornography and marriage fraud. On May 6, 2016, Arthur Budovsky was sentenced to 240 months in prison and ordered to pay a $500,000 fine. Budovsky previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering. According to court documents, Kats and Budovsky ran a massive money laundering enterprise through their company Liberty Reserve S.A. (“Liberty Reserve”). Liberty Reserve billed itself as the Internet’s “largest payment processor and money transfer system” and allowed people all over the world to send and receive payments using virtual currency. Kats and Budovsky directed and supervised Liberty Reserve’s operations, finances, and business strategy and were aware that digital currencies were used by other online criminals. Liberty Reserve grew into a financial hub for cybercriminals around the world, trafficking the criminal proceeds of Ponzi schemes, credit card trafficking, stolen identity information and computer hacking. By May 2013, when the government shut it down, Liberty Reserve had more than 5.5 million user accounts worldwide and had processed more than 78 million financial transactions with a combined value of more than $8 billion. United States users accounted for the largest segment of Liberty Reserve’s total transactional volume – between $1 billion and $1.8 billion – and the largest number of user accounts – over 600,000. Co-defendants Mark Marmilev and Maxim Chukharev were sentenced to 60 months and 36 months in prison, respectively. Co-defendant Azzeddine El Amine pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced. Charges remain pending against Liberty Reserve and two individual defendants who are fugitives.
Local Musician Sentenced for Stolen Identity Tax Refund Scheme
On April 21, 2016, in St. Louis, Missouri, Olufunsho Adeshina, a native of Nigeria residing in St. Louis, was sentenced to 40 months in prison and ordered to pay $753,063 in restitution to the IRS. Adeshina was sentenced for theft of government funds. According to court documents, Adeshina received $753,063 from more than fifty refunds by filing false tax returns in the name of various individuals. The refunds were sent to various financial accounts: some in his name, some in the names of businesses he controlled and some were in the names of identity theft victims whose information he used to establish additional accounts. Adeshina sought more than $3.5 million dollars in refunds but most of the false returns were caught and not honored by the IRS.
Alaska Plastic Surgeon Sentenced for Wire Fraud and Tax Evasion
On April 4, 2016, in Anchorage, Alaska, Dr. Michael D. Brandner was sentenced to 48 months in prison, two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $25,922 toward the costs of prosecution. Dr. Brandner was convicted in November 2015 of four counts of wire fraud and three counts of tax evasion. The charges arose from a scheme to conceal over $5 million of assets in secret bank accounts in Panama and Costa Rica from the IRS and Dr. Brandner’s wife. According to the indictment and evidence introduced at trial, shortly after his wife filed for divorce in late 2007, Dr. Brandner collected millions of dollars in marital assets and secretly drove from Tacoma, Washington, to Costa Rica in Central America. In Costa Rica, he opened two bank accounts into which he deposited over $350,000 in cash and hid a thousand ounces of gold in a safe deposit box. He then traveled to Panama where he opened an account under the name of a sham corporation and deposited $4.6 million into the account in 2008. Dr. Brandner concealed both the existence of the bank accounts and the interest income he earned on those accounts from the court in the divorce proceedings and from the IRS. Dr. Brandner owed the IRS $500,000 in additional taxes for the 2008 through the 2010 tax years. In 2011, Dr. Brandner repatriated over $4.6 million once the divorce was final only to have the funds seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) special agents. He then lied to federal agents about his control of the funds.
Owner of Costa Rican Call Center Sentenced for $1.88 Million Sweepstakes Scam
On March 14, 2016, in Asheville, North Carolina, Geoffrey Alexander Ramer, formerly of Falls Church, Virginia, was sentenced to 108 months in prison and ordered to pay $2,871,430 in restitution and to forfeit $1,886,018. On Sept. 15, 2014, Ramer, a dual U.S.-Costa Rican citizen, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and four counts of international money laundering in connection with the telemarketing fraud scheme. According to court documents, from 2008 through December 2013, Ramer owned and operated call centers located in Costa Rica. Ramer and his co-conspirators called U.S. residents, many of whom were elderly, and falsely informed the victims that they had won a substantial cash prize in a sweepstakes, and that, in order to receive their prize money, the victims were to send money to Costa Rica for a purported refundable insurance fee. After receiving the victims’ money, the co-conspirators would contact the victims to falsely inform them that the prize amount had increased and the victims needed to send additional money for more purported fees. Ramer and his co-conspirators would continue these attempts to collect additional money until the victims went broke or discovered the fraud. Ramer and his co-conspirators utilized VoIP phones that displayed a Washington, D.C., area code in order to conceal that they were calling from Costa Rica, and sometimes falsely claim to be from a U.S. federal agency to give victims a false sense of security. The co-conspirators kept the victims’ funds, never provided any winnings to the victims and used the funds to continue the call centers’ operation and for the co-conspirators’ personal benefit. Ramer was responsible for causing more than $1.88 million in losses to hundreds of elderly Americans.
Two Cayman Island Financial Institutions Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Hide More Than $130 Million
On March 9, 2016, in Manhattan, New York, Cayman National Securities Ltd. (CNS) and Cayman National Trust Co. Ltd. (CNT), two Cayman Island affiliates of Cayman National Corporation, pleaded guilty to conspiring with many of their U.S. taxpayer-clients to hide more than $130 million in offshore accounts from the IRS and to evade U.S. taxes on the income earned in those accounts. CNS and CNT will pay a total of $6 million to the U.S. and provide the account files of non-compliant U.S. taxpayers who maintained accounts at CNS and CNT. According to court documents, from at least 2001 through 2011, CNS and CNT assisted certain U.S. taxpayers in evading their U.S. tax obligations to the IRS and otherwise hiding accounts held at CNS and CNT from the IRS. CNT set up sham trusts and shell companies for U.S. taxpayer-clients and permitted these clients to trade in U.S. securities without requiring them to submit Form W-9s as required. CNS and CNT agreed to maintain these structures for U.S. taxpayer-clients after many of them expressed concern that their accounts would be detected by the IRS. In 2009, CNS and CNT had approximately $137 million in assets under management relating to undeclared accounts held by U.S. taxpayer-clients. From 2001 through 2011, CNS and CNT earned more than $3.4 million in gross revenues from the undeclared U.S. taxpayer accounts that they maintained.
VimpelCom Limited and Unitel LLC Enter into Global Foreign Bribery Resolution
On Feb. 18, 2016, in Washington, D.C., Amsterdam-based VimpelCom Limited, the world’s sixth-largest telecommunications company and its wholly owned Uzbek subsidiary, Unitel LLC, admitted to making more than $114 million in bribery payments to a government official in Uzbekistan. The companies structured and concealed the bribes through various payments to a shell company that certain VimpelCom and Unitel management knew was beneficially owned by the foreign official. The bribes were paid on multiple occasions between approximately 2006 and 2012 so that VimpelCom could enter the Uzbek market and Unitel could gain valuable telecom assets and continue operating in Uzbekistan. In addition, VimpelCom admitted that it falsified its books and records and attempted to conceal and disguise the bribery scheme by classifying payments as equity transactions, consulting and repudiation agreements and reseller transactions. VimpelCom also failed to implement and enforce adequate internal accounting controls, which allowed the bribe payments to occur without detection or remediation. VimpelCom agreed to pay a total criminal penalty of $230,163,199 to the United States, including $40 million in criminal forfeiture.
Ohio Man Sentenced for Money Laundering in Connection with Costa Rica-Based Telemarketing Fraud Scheme
On Feb. 18, 2016, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Paul R. Toth Jr., of Wintersville, Ohio, was sentenced to 108 months in prison and was ordered to pay $307,702 in restitution and to forfeit the same amount. Toth was convicted on Aug. 4, 2015, of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and six counts of international money laundering. According to court documents, Toth’s co-conspirators in Costa Rica posed as federal agents and deceived two victims, who were husband and wife, into believing that they had won a large monetary prize in a sweepstakes contest. The co-conspirators falsely told the victims that in order to receive the “prize,” the victims had to wire thousands of dollars to Costa Rica for a “refundable insurance fee.” Toth, and others he recruited and supervised, received more than $300,000 from victims and, using various individuals as senders and recipients to conceal the fraudulent nature of the transactions, wired more than $200,000 to co-conspirators in Costa Rica. Toth kept the remainder as his profit.
Canadian Sentenced for Mail and Wire Fraud Conspiracy
On Feb. 8, 2016, in Richmond, Virginia, David Solomon, aka David Chityal, was sentenced to 60 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Solomon pleaded guilty on Nov. 30, 2015. According to court documents, from about September 2009 to March 8, 2010, Solomon was in a federal prison with an individual who had been convicted of a $126 million fraud scheme, sentenced to 100 years in prison and was ordered to pay approximately $128 million in restitution to victims. The other individual had conveyed assets to his bankruptcy estate for this restitution, including approximately $2 million in tax refunds. However, upon Solomon’s release and deportation back to Canada, Solomon and this other individual schemed to gain access to the $2 million in tax refunds and use the funds for the other’s criminal appeal. Through attorneys, the men were able to have the $2 million fraudulently refunded and endorsed. However, when one of the attorneys attempted to deposit the funds in an overseas trust account, he was informed of the fraud and returned the funds to the bankruptcy estate, which then paid the funds out to the victims.
Bank Julius Baer of Switzerland Enters into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement
On Feb. 4, 2016, in Manhattan, New York, Bank Julius Baer & Co., Ltd., a financial institution headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement. Julius Baer admitted that it knowingly assisted many of its U.S. taxpayer-clients in evading their tax obligations under U.S. law and agreed to pay the United States $547 million. In addition, two Julius Baer client advisers, Daniela Casadei, a Swiss citizen, and Fabio Frazzetto, an Italian and Swiss citizen, each pleaded guilty to conspiring with U.S. taxpayer-clients and others to help U.S. taxpayers hide their assets in offshore accounts and to evade U.S. taxes on the income earned in those accounts. Casadei and Frazzetto are scheduled to be sentenced at a later date. According to court documents, from at least the 1990s through 2009, Julius Baer took numerous steps to help U.S. taxpayers hide assets from the IRS and evade taxes including opening and maintaining undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayers. Casadei, Frazzetto, and others, advised U.S. taxpayer-clients that their accounts at Julius Baer would not be disclosed to the IRS because Julius Baer had a long tradition of bank secrecy and no longer had offices in the United States. At its high-water mark in 2007, Julius Baer had approximately $4.7 billion in assets under management relating to approximately 2,589 undeclared accounts held by U.S. taxpayer-clients. From 2001 through 2011, Julius Baer earned approximately $87 million in profit on approximately $219 million gross revenues from its undeclared U.S. taxpayer accounts.
Pakistani National Sentenced in International Counterfeit Drug Conspiracy
On Feb. 3, 2016, in Sherman, Texas, Muhammad Aijaz Sarfraz, from Karachi, Pakistan, was sentenced to 240 months in prison for drug trafficking violations. Sarfraz was convicted on May 14, 2015, of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute controlled substances and international money laundering conspiracy. According to court records, from March 2009 until his arrest in April 2012, Sarfraz operated numerous illegal websites through which he distributed millions of illicit Schedule II, III, and IV controlled substances to internet customers throughout the United States. The pills, which were counterfeit and made to look like authentic prescription medications approved for use in the United States, often contained incorrect active pharmaceutical ingredients or the wrong quantity and dosage strength of those substances. It is estimated that the criminal enterprise may have generated as much as $100 million or more in proceeds between 2009 and 2012.
Colombian Cartel Leader Sentenced for Trafficking Narcotics
On Jan. 13, 2016, in Newark, New Jersey, Colombian national Salomon Camacho Mora, a/k/a “Papa Grande,” “El Viejo,” and “Hector,” was sentenced to 132 months in prison, five years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $1.6 million and eight Colombian properties. On Oct. 15, 2014, Camacho pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit narcotics trafficking. According to court documents, Camacho and members of his drug organization purchased multi- kilogram quantities of cocaine from processing laboratories located in Colombia and arranged for the transportation of the cocaine to various shipping ports in Venezuela. Camacho and members of his drug organization then sold the cocaine shipments to other drug trafficking organizations operating in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the United States. Others in his organization received and stored the drug shipments in Venezuela, and arranged for their maritime transportation to Puerto Rico and the United States.
International Money Launderer Sentenced
On Jan. 11, 2016, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Miguel Amaris-Caviedes, of Costa Rica, was sentenced to 60 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Amaris-Caviedes previously pleaded guilty to two counts of knowingly conducting financial transactions that involved purported drug proceeds. According to court documents, in 2013, Amaris-Caviedes met with individuals to discuss money laundering and drug trafficking methods from Costa Rica. Amaris-Caviedes agreed to launder what he believed to be drug proceeds through four Costa Rican bank accounts and then wire transfer the proceeds, minus his commission, to any country requested. In November 2013, Amaris-Caviedes laundered more than $100,000 of purported drug proceeds through his bank accounts in Costa Rica to a bank account in Puerto Rico. Amaris-Caviedes believed that this money would be used to purchase drugs from a source of supply in Puerto Rico.
Former Government Contracting Official Sentenced for Bribery
On Jan. 8, 2016, in Alexandria, Virginia, James Edward Addas, of Stafford, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in a bribery scheme involving U.S government contracts in Iraq. Addas previously pleaded guilty to bribery and tax evasion. According to the plea agreement, in August 2004, Addas was a contracting official at the Iraq/Afghanistan Joint Contracting Command in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad when the owner and CEO of a contracting company based in Jordan offered to pay him a total of $1 million in return for assistance in obtaining U.S. government contracts for major electrical construction projects and related services in Iraq. With Addas’ assistance, the contractor’s companies subsequently received at least 15 contracts, with a total value of more than $28 million. The contractor paid Addas via cash and wire transfers that totaled more than $505,000 and paid for other items valued at more than $70,000. Addas did not declare any of this income on his filed federal tax returns.
Canadian Man Sentenced for $10 Million Income Tax Refund Fraud Scheme
On Jan. 4, 2016, in Rochester, New York, Kevin Cyster, of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, was sentenced to 135 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $3,553,303 in restitution to the IRS. In September 2015, Cyster was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and commit theft of government funds, making a false claim against the United States and two counts of transferring stolen money in foreign commerce. According to court documents, Cyster was part of a group of Canadian citizens that filed tax returns with the IRS that contained fraudulent Forms 1099-OID. The returns falsely claimed that nearly $10 million in federal income taxes had been withheld on their behalf by various Canadian financial institutions and paid over to the IRS. The false Forms 1099-OID were created and filed with the IRS by Ronald Brekke, of Orange County, California, and not by the financial institutions. No federal income taxes were paid over to the IRS on behalf of Cyster and his co-conspirators and they were not entitled to the refunds claimed on their tax returns. Co-conspirator Brekke was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Another conspirator, Jarvis Renee Jarvis, of Ontario, is scheduled to be sentenced.
Former Executive Sentenced for Conspiracy to Bribe Panamanian Officials
On Dec. 16, 2015, in San Francisco, California, Vicente Eduardo Garcia, of Miami, Florida, was sentenced to 22 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Garcia previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and agreed to pay $85,965 plus prejudgment interest. According to court documents, in late 2009, Garcia, a regional director of a technology company, conspired with others to bribe three Panamanian government officials to secure a multimillion-dollar contract for his employer. The conspirators used sham contracts and false invoices to disguise the true nature of the bribes. Garcia personally received over $85,000 in kickbacks for arranging the bribes.
California Art Dealer Sentenced for Smuggling and Charitable Deduction Tax Scam
On Dec. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles, California, Jonathan M. Markell, the owner of Silk Roads Design Gallery, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Markell’s wife, Carolyn Markell, was also sentenced for her role in the tax fraud conspiracy. Both were ordered to pay restitution to the IRS and repatriate 337 antiquities seized from their residence and gallery to Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and China. Markell previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle stolen antiquities into the United States by making false declarations to U.S. Customs authorities. In a second case, Markell pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit tax fraud. According to court documents, Markell smuggled looted antiquities into the United States for sale in his art gallery. Markell engaged in a tax fraud scheme by promoting and participating in a false charitable deduction scheme. Markell bundled the antiquities into “charitable donation packages” that were donated to charitable institutions such as museums and universities. Markell prepared fraudulent appraisals in order to falsely inflate the value of the antiquities, which he provided to co-conspirators, who used the fraudulent documents to claim inflated charitable donation tax deductions.
Former Silk Road Task Force Agents Sentenced for Extortion, Money Laundering, and Obstruction
On Dec. 7, 2015, in San Francisco, California, Shaun W. Bridges, a former Secret Service special agent, of Laurel, Maryland, was sentenced to 71 months in prison and ordered to forfeit more than $650,000. Bridges previously pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstructing justice. On Oct. 19, 2015, in San Francisco, California, Carl M. Force, of Baltimore, Maryland, a former Drug Enforcement Administration special agent, was sentenced to 78 months in prison and ordered to pay $340,000 in restitution. Force previously pleaded guilty to extortion, money laundering and obstruction of justice. According to court documents, between 2012 and 2014, Bridges and Force were assigned to the Baltimore Silk Road Task Force, a multi-agency group investigating illegal activity on the Silk Road, a covert online marketplace for illicit goods, primarily drugs. Bridges used account information obtained during the January 2013 search and arrest of Curtis Green (a customer support representative on Silk Road) to reset passwords and pins of various accounts on Silk Road and move approximately 20,000 bitcoin from those accounts into a bitcoin “wallet” that Bridges controlled. Between March and May 2015, after further bitcoin transfers, Bridges liquidated the bitcoin into $820,000 in U.S. currency. Force was the lead undercover agent in communication with Ross Ulbricht, a/k/a “Dread Pirate Roberts,” who ran Silk Road. Force was on Ulbricht’s payroll in a variety of ways while assigned to investigate Ulbricht and the Silk Road. Rather than disclose Ulbricht’s payments or turn them over to the government, Force lied on official reports and stole the funds. Force liquidated the digital currency into dollars and had the funds deposited into his own bank account in order to convert the funds to his own personal use. Force also created other unofficial and fictitious personas that he used to extort payment from Ulbricht. Force also abused his position by engaging in a wide array of outside activities without permission while he was a federal agent, all designed to enrich himself.
Two Members of Mexican Mafia Sentenced
On Nov. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles, California, Manuel Hernandez was sentenced to 57 months in prison and three years supervised release. On Nov. 3, 2015, Roberto Muriel was sentenced to 108 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Both men previously pleaded guilty to a one count of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations conspiracy (RICO). According to their plea agreements both men were involved in the Mexican mafia on an ongoing basis to assist in carrying out its activities. Hernandez's role in the conspiracy was to extort or collect "taxes" for the mafia from criminal street gang members and others which enable them to continue trafficking narcotics and exert influence over their neighborhoods and to seek protection or assistance from the Mexican mafia. Muriels role in the enterprise included, but not limited to, passing messages on behalf of his con-conspirators that authorized murders of gang members and associates.