MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Twelve gang members were indicted on Friday for breaking into multiple pharmacies across the Mid-South. It was a crime encouraged by "The Concrete Cartel," which is one of the gangs believed to be involved.
Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Laurenzi said the gang was targeting opioids when its members broke into several pharmacies, including the CVS on Union Avenue.
"The gang was very active in the Shelby County area, both in the pharmacies they were robbing, as well as the drugs they were selling," Laurenzi said.
The extensive investigation started in 2015 and involved federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Almost a dozen businesses were robbed primarily in Shelby County and North Mississippi.
"We knew we had serial offenders knocking off the CVS pharmacies," Assistant Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman said. "The case evolved because they were gang members of the Concrete Cartel and activity in support of the gang."
"It was a very organized gang in the way they operate and the way they did their business," Laurenzi said.
Members were recruited in neighborhoods, including schools, through the Concrete Cartel's rap label. Potential members were observed over a 21-day period and were expected to demonstrate their fighting skills, participate in retaliatory acts against rival gangs, and attend weekly meetings.
"We're very concerned about it and we are going to use all of our efforts to stop this type of criminal activity," Laurenzi said.
Investigators would not say whether they believe the Concrete Cartel had help from people working inside the businesses that were robbed. More arrests are possible.