The Aryan Warriors is a criminal gang that operates inside the Nevada prison system and in certain communities in Nevada. They offer protection to white inmates if they join the gang.
HistoryThe Aryan Warriors began in 1973 in the Nevada State prison system. The gang, designed after the California gang the Aryan Brotherhood, sought to protect whites against the growing attacks from black prisoners. After seeking a charter membership from the AB and being turned down, the AW gang was on its own.
About a year into its creation the gang, who up to now was unable to organize, was taken over by an older inmate doing a life sentence named The Pope. Familiar with the way the AB gang worked, The Pope began to organize and structure the Aryan Warriors.
He established rules for all gang members to follow and a hierarchy of leadership. Building up the physical strength of the AW became a priority. Focusing on its enemy, primarily black inmates, became its target. Building the gang's reputation for violence and selecting future members based on their strength and violent backgrounds became its mission.
Gang StructureThe Pope designed a structure of leadership for all to follow. To this day members adhere to a written manifesto which establishes positions or ranks within the gang, such as horn holders (leaders), bolt holders (full members), prospects (potential members), and associates (non-members who are affiliated with the organization.)
In order to become a full member, a prospect is required to perform a violent act as dictated by the horn blowers. Once they do it they become "bolt holders" and are tattooed (or branded) with lightning bolts on the inside of their left biceps.
To rise to the next level, "horn holders," they must perform a more serious violent act, which often includes murder. Once completed they are given a tattoo with a viking helmet with the letters AW, which is put on their left upper chest.
Horn blowers, under the direction of the top leader, are in charge of running all gang activities.
Black Gangs Rise to the ThreatNot willing to succumb to the Aryan Warriors, the blacks organized the Black Warriors and duplicated much of the AW symbols, like the helmet with a horn. Power struggles began to go on in the prison yard, a place the black inmates had long controlled and a war between the two gangs became eminent.
The Aryan Warriors Prepare for WarThe Aryan Warriors had perfected the skill of manufacturing weapons inside prison and with the impending war with the Black Warriors close at hand, production sped up. They also met with the Native Americans who had also suffered attacks from the BWs, and the two groups made a pact to fight on the same side to bring down the BWs.
The showdown occurred in the prison cafeteria and the blacks, many unarmed and taken by surprise by the AWs and Native attackers, lost the battle. The whites and the Natives now had full control of the prison yard.
The Thirst for More PowerNow in control, the Aryan Warriors sought even more power and began going after those who they were supposed to be protecting - white inmates. Intimidation and threats were used to extort money from white inmates and their families. Those who refused would be beaten and sold as prison yard prostitutes. Instead of focusing on protection, the AW was now focused on drug distribution, extortion and weaponry.
Aryan Warriors or Aryan Witnesses?On November 5, 1980, a group of AWs murdered an inmate, Danny Lee Jackson, who they suspected to be a snitch. They then bragged about it in the prison yard. The murder and the boasting turned out to be a fatal mistake for the gang.
Robert Manly was a young prison deputy with an eye on the future. His door to the future opened when given the responsibility to find out who murdered the inmate.
The AW, who had spent years extorting inmates, had many enemies willing to talk to Manly. This gave the deputy enough information to corner AW gang members, many of who rolled over and became state witnesses. In return several received early releases.
No longer having any hope of charter membership into the AB and with many of its members gone, the AW had lost most of its power. Its leader, The Pope, died in 1997, which proved to devastate the gang's power even more.
Aryan Warriors TodayPrison officials say that today the AW, now numbering about 100 members, still asserts control over other prisoners by using violence, including murder and attempted murder, assaults and extortion. They also corrupt guards, extort money and favors from prisoners and their families, distribute illegal drugs, and run extensive illegal gambling operations.
The Aryan Warriors also operate a "street program" in Las Vegas, Reno and Pahrump, in which members, associates, and girlfriends distribute drugs, steal or fraudulently obtain identification and credit cards, commit other crimes, and smuggle drugs into the prisons.
Members use the money earned in the "street program" to support other criminal activities of the gang and to financially support incarcerated Aryan Warrior leaders.
On July 10, 2007, 14 Aryan Warrior gang members were indicted and charged with murder, attempted murder, extortion, operating an illegal gambling business, identity theft and fraud, and drug trafficking. Michael Kennedy, an admitted leader of the Aryan Warriors pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy in a related case.
Seven of the 14 pleaded guilty to various charges and on July 9, 2009, five were found guilty.
With the leader and other top gang members out of commission the future of the Aryan Warriors is questionable, however some prison officials feel that this type of attention could actually strengthen the AW with other members moving into the now vacant positions of leadership.
RICO AND OTHER CHARGES FILED IN FED SWEEP
Jul. 18, 2007
Michael Wayne "Big Mike" Yost, 53, of Pahrump, was arrested last Thursday at approximately 6 a.m. for his alleged involvement with the "Aryan Warriors" prison gang.
Yost was one of five targeted members known to reside in the Pahrump and Las Vegas area; four other members were arrested the same day in Las Vegas.
The Nye County Scorpion Task Force, as well as members of the Street Crimes Unit, assisted an FBI SWAT team in serving the arrest warrant at Yost's residence.
The Aryan Warriors is an established white gang that operates from within the Nevada prison system.
Incarcerated members use violence and other means to extort other prisoners for money or commissary items, run illegal gambling operations, and distribute drugs both inside and out of prisons.
Recently, the gang has established a "street program" in which members (generally released from prison) engage in a wide array of illegal activity in order to raise money for the gang and its members. (Further details about the gang will be published in a second article this Friday.)
Sheriff Tony DeMeo said Yost was a "foot soldier" within the gang's street program.
In the federal indictment, Yost is listed as a "soldier and prospect" and faces an array of charges, ranging from gambling schemes and drug trafficking to corruption of public officials and "unauthorized use of access devices."
The U.S. Department of Justice defines a "prospect" as someone specifically identified within the gang as a potential member.
Yost has been arrested numerous times while living in Pahrump. He is incarcerated in a federal detention facility.
The five arrests on June 12 were actually only a small part of a much more expansive federal indictment against 14 alleged gang members; the remaining members are incarcerated within the Nevada prison system.
All 14 face the charge of conspiracy to engage in a racketeer influenced corrupt organization, more commonly known as a RICO charge.
Three are additionally charged separately with acts of violence in aid of racketeering, specifically conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon.
For the sheriff's office, however, the path to Yost's arrest and the Aryan Warriors began over two years ago when a Nye County detective was contacted by other federal and state agencies involved with the RICO investigation.
According to the sheriff's office press release, the detective was contacted due to the large number of gang members either living in or put behind bars from Pahrump.
In fact, the sheriff's office said in a written press release, "It should be noted, that currently incarcerated in Nevada's prison system, Pahrump lays claim to some of the more ruthless members of this organization."
Numerous cases against Aryan Warriors and associates in Pahrump have been developed over the last two years.
The charges against gang members range from attempted murder and hate crimes to identity theft and grand larceny.
In 2005, an Aryan Warrior from Pahrump, Jeffrey Dean Martindale, was shot and killed during a shootout with Boulder City police. The gang member was on the run from an attempted murder warrant out of Pahrump.
"We were very aware of their presence here," DeMeo said of the Aryan Warriors.
If convicted, Yost and the other defendants facing the RICO charge could be sentenced to up to life in prison and $250,000 fines.