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Armenian Power is an Armenian street gang located in Los Angeles County, California. In its tags the gang is also known as Armenian Power 13, AP 13, AP X3, and AP XIII.
The number 13 here represents the letter "M", the 13th letter of the alphabet. It denotes the gang's affiliation with La Eme (Spanish for the letter M) -- the Mexican Mafia. The latter is a Mexican-American criminal organization, and is one of the oldest and most powerful prison gangs in the United States.
Armenian Power -- AP for short -- is a small but virulent gang that took root among Armenian immigrants who arrived in Los Angeles in the late 1980s and early 1990s, authorities said. They are concentrated in Glendale and East Hollywood.
Law enforcement officials described Armenian Power as having an "extensive portfolio" that combined ruthlessness with opportunism, focusing on white-collar crime that included identity theft crimes such as credit-card skimming.
- Source: Nearly 100 charged, dozens arrested in operation targeting Armenian organized crime, Los Angeles Times Blog, Feb. 16, 2011
On Feb. 16, 2011 authorities announced a major crackdown on the gang, arresting 74 of its members:
The federal indictments, unveiled at Glendale police headquarters Wednesday, alleged that members of the gang Armenian Power engaged in a range of white collar crimes to defraud the public of $20 million. [...]
More than 800 law enforcement officials arrested 74 Armenian Power members and their alleged associates throughout Southern California, including Glendale and Burbank, during an early morning raid on Wednesday morning dubbed “Operation Power Outage,” said Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. attorney for the Central District of California.
As of mid-Wednesday, authorities were still searching for about 25 other people.
The range of crimes listed in the indictment included kidnapping, bank fraud, extortion, identity theft and drug trafficking. [...]
With more than 250 reputed members, Armenian Power's reach extends into Glendale, Burbank, Van Nuys, West Hollywood, North Hollywood and Hollywood, according to the federal indictment.
- Source: Armenians uneasy after gang arrests, Glendale News-Press, Feb. 16, 2011
A street gang with roots in East Hollywood from the late 1980s, Armenian Power was created in response to other ethnic gangs in the area, according to the federal indictment. But while most gangs concentrated on turf wars and rivals, Armenian Power ran a tight ship of members who participated in fraud, extortion and white-collar crime, and didn't discriminate against ethnic lines when choosing victims.
The Rev. Vazken Movsesian, who’s part of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church, has focused part of his ministry on gang intervention.
“It was a way of answering to being bullied around, basically filling a void that Armenian organizations and churches couldn't fill for them,” he said of how Armenian Power came to be. “In my humble opinion, this is where the church and the organizations should have been and they weren't.”
The tendency of the larger Armenian community to ignore youth violence and drug abuse has provided opportunities for the gang to persist, Movsesian added.
“We're building spires to heaven, and we're not looking at what's on the street,” he said. “This is the new genocide; 1915 is finished. There's a genocide happening right here in Glendale. We're losing our identity, who we are as people, our dignity. [...]
Internal rifts within the Armenian community exacerbate the issue. Armenians in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, who had established communities and identities in those countries following the Armenian Genocide, immigrated again to Los Angeles County following civil war and unrest in their new homelands. At the same time, Armenian immigrants began to arrive following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Many say the ethnic group has struggled with these inter-cultural divisions and separations that pin one against the other, hindering unity.
- Source: Armenian leaders interpret gang's rise, The Burbank Leader, Feb. 25, 2011
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