The 10-count indictment issued by a grand jury in Los Angeles centered on 16 murders and 16 attempted homicides that were allegedly ordered by the gang's leaders in order to maintain discipline or to hold on to control of drug trafficking, extortion and gambling primarily within the walls of some of the toughest institutions in the nation.
The indictment also alleges violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO); a conspiracy to violate RICO and the fact that the murders were in aid of racketeering, two of which took place at the United States Penitentiary at Lompoc, a medium-to-maximum security facility located amidst the tulip fields of central California.
"The AB (Aryan Brotherhood) enforces its rules by, among other tactics, murdering and assaulting those who are considered to be a threat to the organization, including those who act as informants for law enforcement officials," the U.S. Attorney's office said in a release.
Although the Aryan Brotherhood is exclusively white, two Latino members of the Mexican Mafia, another major prison gang, were named in the indictment for allegedly killing one Aryan Brotherhood enemy and the attempted murder of a member of a rival gang.
If convicted, 27 of the defendants could be eligible for the death penalty for their roles in the alleged murders and other violent crimes.
U.S. Attorney Debra Yang and officials from federal law enforcement agencies described Thursday's indictment as a telling blow to the gang, which was stretched over much of the nation and extended its influence outside prison walls as well.
Of the 40 defendants, 30 were already within the prison system where the Aryan Brotherhood has built a reputation as one of the most powerful and feared inmate gangs; formed in 1964, the gang has also extended its ruthless reach to the outside world.
Among the defendants on the outside were six middle-aged men and women residing in California who allegedly fed information and proceeds from drug sales to members on the inside.
In addition to Thursday's arrests, law enforcement officials executed approximately 80 search warrants at residences, offices and prison cells in California, Louisiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Colorado, Massachusetts, Florida, Washington, Nebraska, Connecticut and New York.
One of the outside defendants is Ronald Boyd Slocum, 56, Chino, to whom Aryan Brotherhood members, freshly released from prison, were instructed to report to for marching orders issued by gang leaders still behind bars.
The gang's leadership is composed of so-called commissions, which have authority over the gang's members, and "councils" that manage day-to-day operations in California and within federal facilities. Two inmates at the maximum-security prison in Florence, Colo., were identified as members of the federal prison "commission" while two current and one former member of the California commission were incarcerated at the state's high-security lockup at Pelican Bay.
"Among other things, the commissions have to approve the murder or assault of an AB member if he has violated the rules of the organization," the U.S. attorney's office said.