Utah judge finds probable cause for case targeting ‘Titanic Crip Society’ gang to move forward

An Ogden judge this week ruled that six criminal cases targeting alleged members of a small northern Utah gang can move forward to trial.

Six men accused of being members of the Titanic Crip Society have been charged in state court with a pattern of unlawful activity, a crime similar to the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO.

Prosecutors presented evidence about the gang’s alleged activities during a preliminary hearing last fall, saying its members have fired guns at rival gang members, sold drugs and started prison fights. They’ve tagged their name throughout northern Utah counties, prosecutors say, and have targeted young people to recruit into their gang.

Second District Judge Ernie Jones on Tuesday ruled there was enough evidence for the case to move forward against the six men: Tamer Ahmed Hebeishy, 33, Sharif Ahmed Hebeishy, 36, Sadat Ahmed Hebeishy, 35, Daniel Ray Lopez, 26, Brock Adam Pickett, 29, and Jaron Michael Sadler, 22.

All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charge, according to court records, and a month-long trial beginning Jan. 2, 2018 was scheduled.

The men’s defense attorneys argued in court papers that some of those charged are not current members of the Titanic Crip Society, or that their crimes were not done to appease gang leaders. They also attacked the sources who told prosecutors about the gang’s structure and challenged prosecutors’ assertion that a criminal street gang is an “enterprise.”

The gang has been around northern Utah since the 1990s, according to charging documents, and their membership fluctuates between 10 and 20 members. The gang’s name, prosecutors say in charging documents, was apparently chosen to “represent the might and strength of those who make up the body of membership.”

Prosecutors have said they hope the criminal charges will help curb dangerous activities and dismantle the gang. If convicted as charged, the men face five-to-life prison sentences.

Deputy Weber County Attorney Branden Miles said last year that the cases are a new approach for Weber County prosecutors in tackling gang crime. It’s also the first time the county’s prosecutors have attempted to stymie a gang as a whole since the Utah Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a citywide gang injunction against the Titanic Crip Society’s rivals, Ogden Trece.

Police began investigating the Titanic Crip Society in 2015, when officials began to see a “troubling increase” of crime committed by its members, according to the Weber County attorney’s office. For a year, investigators from the county attorney’s office, the Ogden-Metro Gang Unit and Strike Force and the local FBI Violent Crimes Task Force relied on confidential informants, wiretapped telephones and engaged in other means to charge the six men with a pattern of unlawful activity.

Confidential informants have told police that the gang’s recruiting process is “gradual, almost predatory,” prosecutors wrote. Recruiters draw in people, typically juveniles, with marijuana, alcohol and friendship — and purposefully pick prospective members who come from “broken” families or have nothing to lose.

All six of the defendants are behind bars; five are at the Utah State Prison serving time for other crimes.

Sharif and Tamer Hebeishy are in prison for drug crimes, while Sadler is serving a prison sentence for obstructing justice, unlawful sexual activity with a minor and attempted assault of a police officer. Lopez is in prison for discharging a firearm, and Pickett is serving a sentence for attempted assault of a prisoner and aggravated assault. Sadat Hebeishy is being held at the Weber County jail.