After an 18-month-long investigation into drug sales involving members of West Palm Beach’s 4th Street Gang, authorities have arrested 18 people in what they dubbed Operation Goodfellas.
On Feb. 6, West Palm Beach Police executed nine search warrants throughout the county and arrested 17 adults and one minor on charges including racketeering, drug sales, gun violations and attempted first-degree murder, Police Chief Frank Adderley announced at a news conference Tuesday with Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg and West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James.
The investigation, headed by the West Palm Beach Organized Crime Section, targeted open-air drug sales in the area of Fourth Street and Tamarind Avenue — a hotspot for the 4th Street Gang’s activity. The gang’s members have operated in the area for at least 15 years, Adderley said, and are tied to multiple other violent crimes.
At least 30 guns, narcotics, vehicles, properties and cash were seized in the investigation, Adderley said. Cocaine, Xanax, Oxycodone, PCP, MDMA, fentanyl and marijuana were all seized in the investigation, assistant state attorney Diva O’Bryan said.
The suspects range in age from 16 to 58. A 19th suspect has been charged, but he or she remains at large, officials said.
The 18 suspects in custody are:
Vernon “Verne” Tanksley, 41;
Marcus “Buddy” Tanksley, 37;
Henry Mann, 41;
Eugene “Chief” Chatman, 32;
William “AR” Chatman, 28;
Lee “Lemo” Moore Jr., 23;
Quentavious “Bam” Brown, 32;
Pamela “Auntie” Perry, 58;
Cornelius Williams, 36;
Jonathan Patterson, 33;
Bryan “BG” King, 19;
Jacques “Quez” Ellington, 16;
Lataura Bell, 32;
Triverious “Jungle or Gambino” Tanksley, 24;
Danny “MG” White, 23;
Avens “Vegas” Lemieux, 26;
Danlee Russell, 21; and
Robert “Unc” Easley, 55.
The 4th Street Gang has ongoing rivalries that turn violent with three other gangs in the West Palm Beach, unincorporated Palm Beach County and Riviera Beach areas, according to a probable cause affidavit. Its members share hand signs, tattoos and names to identify themselves.
The gang has been involved in criminal activity in the area since the 1990s’, the affidavit says. The feuds between the gangs have resulted in people getting hurt and killed.
The gang is known to operate in the alley between Third and Fourth Streets near North Tamarind Avenue and Douglass Avenue, the affidavit says, where they sold drugs and used the alley to “maintain clout with rival gangs by brandishing and displaying firearms in open air.”
James said some of the guns seized were assault-style rifles.
“Today we send yet another powerful message. To those who want to participate in illegal activities in our city, just know that we have zero tolerance for such activities,” James said. “These arrests signify West Palm Beach’s continued commitment to making our city safer.”
Aronbeg said that the arrests in the Operation Goodfellas investigation have now “decimated” the 4th Street Gang. With all 19 suspects’ maximum penalties combined, the total number of years in prison comes to 3,725.
The minor arrested in the operation is accused of shooting another minor in the face, Aronberg said, because the victim challenged an older gang member. The minor suspect is being prosecuted as an adult.
“As part of this gang’s ongoing criminal activity, what they would do is they would recruit people who had clean records so that they could buy guns for them, and then they would sit in the alleyways in broad daylight to protect the drug-trafficking business with their firearms,” Aronberg said.
This was so brazen that you could see this with a naked eye from the courthouse. That’s how close it was to us. These deals went down from 7 a.m. to well past dark,” he said.
The West Palm Beach Police Department’s Organized Crime Section was aided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Marshals Service; the Office of the State Attorney; Delray Beach Police Department and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Adderley said the investigation continues and additional arrests may be forthcoming.
“We’re not standing here waving a flag saying that it’s victory and the whole open drug sale problem in the city is over,” Adderley said. “We’re going to continue to work as hard as we possibly can and utilize these resources to eliminate it, and I think that’s a work in progress.”