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|Police chiefs worry about Brazilian gangs||Sunday, November 11, 2007|
|Liz Mineo 508-626-3825||Metrowest Daily News|
The two men are in their early 20s, share a passion for cars, and, according to the Framingham police, both were members of a gang with links to Brazil, the first one that has surfaced in the local Brazilian community.
Police said Marcilei Caetano, 24, and Joelson G. Fonseca, 21, both formerly of Framingham, were local members of a gang based in Rio de Janeiro "Amigos dos Amigos," or Friends of Friends, also known by its initials A.D.A. The gang is one of three violent criminal organizations that fight over drug trafficking control in Rio's shantytowns.
Caetano has been deported to Brazil, and Fonseca, who is in jail on a drug sentence, will follow once he completes his time in prison, said police.
Both men were arrested on July 20, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers came to town looking for a Brazilian man who had a warrant for his deportation. Caetano and Fonseca were at an apartment on 277 Concord St., where the operation was taking place, and when neither of them could prove they were legal residents, they were placed in deportation proceedings, said ICE spokeswoman Paula Grenier. Caetano was deported in late September, she said.
Police said they had information about Caetano and Fonseca's gang involvement before their arrests from anonymous sources within the Brazilian community. And after they were detained, police received more information about other illegal activities they were involved in: distribution of drugs, house break-ins, and a home invasion.
The arrests of Caetano and Fonseca bring to light an ongoing investigation police have been conducting on Brazilian gangs that may be responsible for home invasions, house break-ins, robberies and drug trafficking in Framingham, Worcester and Milford. Police said two other Brazilian gangs are active in the community: "Furacao," or Twister, and "Jovem Brazilian Mafia," or Young Brazilian Mafia, also known by its initials in Portuguese, JBM.
The first reports of Brazilian gang activity surfaced in the past six months, said Framingham Police Chief Steven Carl, who was so concerned that he decided to send two police officers to receive training with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The five-week program prepares officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions by offering resources and authority to pursue investigations on violent crimes, among them gang and organized crime activity, drugs, and human smuggling. For Carl, the training will better prepare officers to investigate gangs made up of foreigners who are in the U.S. illegally.
"Our Kendall Street gang is little compared to the Brazilian gangs," said Carl, referring to a gang in Framingham whose members have been investigated and, in some cases, arrested. "With gangs made up of people who are undocumented and hail from other countries, we don't know where to begin. They are people who commit crimes and don't exist in our databases. They're ghosts in the community, and no one reports them because people are afraid of the police."
Brazil-linked gangs were targeting Brazilians, said police.
"Brazilians were being victimized by Brazilians," said Carl. "They have the population to do it. What better pool of victims than the undocumented who are afraid to call the police?"
In Marlborough, Milford and Waltham, police forces have heard of some gang activities within some immigrant communities, but none of them have found alleged gang members in their backyards.
"Our gang activity is very limited," said Detective Sgt. Tim King, Waltham police spokesman.
"We hear of people with some affiliations to MS-13 (a violent gang mostly made up of Salvadoran and Central American immigrants), but it's not an organized group and hasn't taken a stronghold here."
Milford Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin felt the same way. Though he has heard of "Amigos dos Amigos," police have yet to find leads about local members of that gang.
"Gangs are a concern," he said. "We monitor gang activities, exchange information with other police forces across the region, and our officers are constantly checking the Web sites of Brazilian police forces that post the photographs of serious offenders who may have left the country and end up here."
In Marlborough, Police Chief Mark Leonard said his department has yet to see a gang that operates in an organized fashion.
"What we end up with is the spillover from Framingham and Milford," he said. "But we haven't seen anything well-organized."
In Framingham, home to a large Brazilian population, police are growing concerned about Brazilian gang members that could bring here a piece of the violence that makes Brazil a country with the highest urban crime rates in Latin America.
"They use intimidation, fear, threats and violence, and are well-funded and have established connections with gangs in Brazil," said Carl referring to Amigos dos Amigos. "They're very violent. We have seen photographs of them with piles of money and guns. In one of them, a guy is wiping his behind with a hundred dollar bill."
According to several reports from the Brazilian press, "Amigos dos Amigos" was born in the late 1980s in a Rio de Janeiro prison and has its headquarters in Rocinha, Brazil's largest slum, or favela in Portuguese, with 200,000 people.
Searches on Youtube and Orkut.com (the Brazilian equivalent of Myspace) show videos and pictures of Amigos dos Amigos members posing with machine guns, drugs and money.
According to police, Caetano was the local leader of the A.D.A. gang, and Fonseca was a member. The Web page of Caetano on Orkut.com shows him surrounded by friends but without guns. As for Fonseca, there isn't a Web page under that name.
But both Caetano and Fonseca were close friends. At some point they lived in the same apartment with other men. And during the time they lived in Framingham, they had several run-ins with the law.
Caetano's first encounter with the police goes back to December 2004, when he was arrested after a traffic stop. He was charged with driving with a suspended license, giving a false name to the police, refusing to stop and lacking an inspection sticker. In September 2006, police arrested him for driving violations, and two months later, he was taken into custody for malicious mischief and disorderly conduct charges. In July of this year, when Caetano was arrested in an ICE operation that netted another five Brazilian men, police found he was carrying steroid pills. He lived at 277 Concord St., according to police.
Fonseca has had a handful of encounters with the police.
In November 2004, Fonseca, who was then 18, was arrested and charged with shooting a BB gun out of his home's window on Winthrop Street. He was charged with malicious mischief causing more than $250 worth of damage. In December 2005 he was arrested on a warrant resulting from that charge.
In May 2006, Fonseca was arrested after a traffic stop and charged with driving without a license. Three months later, the Ashland Police arrested him and charged him with selling the drug ecstasy. Police found 25 Ecstasy tablets on Fonseca and said he had been selling drugs exclusively to Brazilians. Fonseca, who by then was living on Franklin Street, was charged with distribution of a Class B drug and conspiracy to violate state drug laws, police said.
In December 2006, the Framingham Police arrested Fonseca, who was then living on Concord Street, after a car accident and charged him with leaving the accident scene.
After the arrests of Caetano and Fonseca, police continue the investigation on gang members with ties to Brazil who may be active in the community. ; It's not an easy task, said Carl, because many in the Brazilian community are afraid to report crimes because they fear retribution or deportation.
"It makes it so difficult to investigate," said Carl. "We want to identify those violent criminals who are ghosts in our community. We want to arrest, convict and get rid of them, but we cannot do it alone."
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