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Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 15: Primeiro Comando da Massachusetts (PCM) Emerges in Massachusetts

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Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 15:  Primeiro Comando da Massachusetts (PCM) Emerges in Massachusetts

 

John P. Sullivan, José de Arimatéia da Cruz and Robert J. Bunker 

 

The arrests on racketeering charges of over a dozen members and associates of the Primeiro Comando da Massachusetts (PCM) [First Command of Massachusetts], a gang with ties to Brazil, in Eastern Massachusetts highlights the potential for transnational gang networks to emerge within criminal diasporas.  This note documents the first significant case of Brazilian gang emergence in the United States.

 

Key Information: Danny McDonald, “In gang sting, 14 charged with rash of crimes throughout Eastern Mass.” Boston Globe. 25 April 2019, https://www2.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/04/25/gang-sting-charged-with-rash-crimes-throughout-eastern-mass/7QLBpnSBABCvPya6FKOueO/story.html:

More than a dozen members and associates of a gang with ties to Brazil were charged Thursday in connection with an alleged rash of crimes throughout Eastern Massachusetts, including drug and gun trafficking, robberies, and kidnappings, federal prosecutors said.

 

Fourteen members and associates of Primeiro Comando da Massachusetts (PCM) now face charges, according to a statement from the US attorney’s office in Boston. Authorities allege that members and associates of the gang are involved in the illegal sale of guns, drug trafficking, robberies, kidnappings, and armed assaults in a number of communities in the state, including Boston Malden, Everett, Somerville, Framingham, and Peabody.

Key Information: Scott J. Croteau, “Primeiro Comando da Massachusetts gang members busted in sting; accused of robberies, kidnapping.” MassLive. 25 April 2019, https://www.masslive.com/boston/2019/04/primeiro-comando-da-massachusetts-gang-members-busted-in-sting-accused-of-robberies-kidnapping.html:

Authorities said federal, state and local law enforcement began investigating the gang, which has Brazilian origins, in September 2018. The gang first appeared in Massachusetts roughly two years ago.

Key Information: Alex Newman, “Somerville Gang Member Among 14 Facing Federal Charges: USAO,” Somerville Patch. 26 April 2019, https://patch.com/massachusetts/somerville/somerville-gang-member-among-14-facing-federal-charges-usao:

Federal, state and local law enforcement began investigating Primeiro Comando da Massachusetts, known as PCM, in September 2018. The gang traces its origins to Brazil and first appeared in Massachusetts about two years ago, the USAO said.

 

Members and associates of PCM are involved in the illegal sale of firearms, drug trafficking, robberies, kidnappings and armed assaults in numerous communities in Massachusetts, including Boston, Malden, Everett, Somerville, Framingham, and Peabody, according to the USAO.

Third Generation Gang Analysis

 

On 25 April 2019, The United States Attorney (USAO) for the District of Massachusetts announced that 14 members and associates of the Primeiro Comando da Massachusetts (PCM) gang were being charged for racketeering and committing a range of violent crimes including drug and firearms trafficking, robberies, and kidnapping.[1] The USAO (Massachusetts) statement noted:

According to court documents, in September 2018, federal, state and local law enforcement began investigating members and associates of PCM, a gang with Brazilian origins, which first appeared in Massachusetts approximately two years ago. It is alleged that members and associates of PCM are actively involved in violent crimes including the illegal sale of firearms, drug trafficking, robberies, kidnappings and armed assaults in numerous communities in Massachusetts, including Boston, Malden, Everett, Somerville, Framingham, and Peabody, among others. During the investigation, law enforcement seized 31 firearms, including 27 handguns, two sawed-off shotguns, one shotgun, one rifle and several hundred rounds of ammunition.

In addition to charges for individual criminal acts, the USAO is filing charges for racketeering conspiracy under the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act.[2][3] In the court filings, prosecutors stated that Primeiro Comando da Massachusetts (PCM) is composed predominantly of Brazilian nationals who speak Portuguese.  Additionally, the affidavits noted that ‘PCM began approximately two years ago in Massachusetts” and have committed crimes in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and other states.[4]

 

PCM is an example of an emerging ethnic gang—in this case a Brazilian gang—in the United States. The Portuguese-language Brazilian press (in the US and in Brazil) has reported the investigation and charges.[5]  According to one report, “O Primeiro Comando de Massachusetts (PCM) surgiu há cerca de 2 anos e teria ligações com o crime organizado no Brasil.” [The PCM emerged about two years ago and has links to Brazilian organized crime].[6][7]

 

The nature of the links between the PCM and Brazil is unclear.  While they obviously framed their moniker on the infamous Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC)[First Command of the Capital][8] and its members are either Brazilian migrants or have a Brazilian background, there is no demonstrated link to the PCC.  They may inspired by the PCC, have loose links but no formal affiliation, or they may be ‘wannabes’ with no connection.[9] The PCC is largely viewed as Brazil’s dominant criminal group with an estimated 30,000 members on the streets and in prisons. The PCC exerts territorial control in numerous urban and peri-urban favelas [shantytowns] and has extended its reach to Paraguay and Bolivia while earning an estimate $200 million annually from drug trafficking, robberies, and extortion (activities emulated by the PCM).[10][11]

 

In Brazil, factions and affiliates of the PCC, like the Primeiro Comando do Maranhão [First Command of Maranhão], are known to adopt a ‘Primeiro Commando’ (First Command) brand.[12] Further research is needed to determine the exact nature of the Primeiro Comando appellation by the PCM in Massachusetts.  The spread of gang identity and informal links is not new.  Indeed, migration from one urban center to another (as in the cases of Crips and Bloods from Los Angeles, Gangster Disciples and Latin Kings from Chicago, Ñeta from Puerto Rico, or Trinitarios from the Dominican Republic) has led to transmission of gangs, the establishment of gang networks and alliances, and cross-fertilization of gangs with other forms of organized crime.[13][14]

 

The migration and subsequent formation of new gangs or criminal nodes (intentional or unintentional) within émigré or diaspora communities can result in an intentional or unintentional criminal diaspora.[15] The criminal actors in these communities can form nodes in an emerging ‘networked’ entity spreading the reach of criminal bands from local actors to transnational (third generation) gangs and potentially stimulating global links among transnational organized crime groups.[16]

 

The case of the Primeiro Comando de Massachusetts (PGM) described here provides insight into the emergence (and potential interdiction)[17] of a new criminal gang and illustrates the importance of understanding ‘criminal diasporas’ and policing ‘networked’ diaspora communities.[18]

 

Sources

 

Scott J. Croteau, “Primeiro Comando da Massachusetts gang members busted in sting; accused of robberies, kidnapping.” MassLive. 25 April 2019, https://www.masslive.com/boston/2019/04/primeiro-comando-da-massachusetts-gang-members-busted-in-sting-accused-of-robberies-kidnapping.html.

 

Marc Larocque, “Major federal gang bust has ties to Stoughton, Whitman, Abington, Weymouth.” The Enterprise. 25 April 2019, https://www.enterprisenews.com/news/20190425/major-federal-gang-bust-has-ties-to-stoughton-whitman-abington-weymouth.

 

Danny McDonald, “In gang sting, 14 charged with rash of crimes throughout Eastern Mass.” Boston Globe. 25 April 2019, https://www2.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/04/25/gang-sting-charged-with-rash-crimes-throughout-eastern-mass/7QLBpnSBABCvPya6FKOueO/story.html.

 

Alex Newman, “Somerville Gang Member Among 14 Facing Federal Charges: USAO,” Somerville Patch. 26 April 2019, https://patch.com/massachusetts/somerville/somerville-gang-member-among-14-facing-federal-charges-usao.

 

United States Department of Justice, “14 Gang Members and Associates Charged with Committing Violent Crimes in Massachusetts.” Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.” 25 April 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/pr/14-gang-members-and-associates-charged-committing-violent-crimes-massachusetts.

 

End Notes

 

[1] United States Department of Justice, “14 Gang Members and Associates Charged with Committing Violent Crimes in Massachusetts.” Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.” 25 April 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/pr/14-gang-members-and-associates-charged-committing-violent-crimes-massachusetts.

 

[2] See 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961–1968.

 

[3] A detailed overview of the case filings is provided in Marc Larocque, “Major federal gang bust has ties to Stoughton, Whitman, Abington, Weymouth.” The Enterprise. 25 April 2019, https://www.enterprisenews.com/news/20190425/major-federal-gang-bust-has-ties-to-stoughton-whitman-abington-weymouth.  This report contains embedded court filing documents and affidavits.

 

[4] Ibid. Specifically, the affidavit by SA Peter Milligan in support of complaint charging Costa, Gana, Henrique, Melo, DaSilva, Costa, and Goncalves.

 

[5] These reports are sourced on the USAO (Massachusetts) reports.  See, for example, “14 membros de gangue brasileira são presos em Everett e Chelsea.” Brazilian Times. 25 April 2019, https://www.braziliantimes.com/comunidade-brasileira/2019/04/25/14-membros-de-gangue-brasileira-sao-presos-em-everett-e-chelsea.html.

 

[6] Joel Pinheiro, “Polícia prende gangue de brasileiros em Massachusetts.” Brazilian Voice. 26 April 2019, http://www.brazilianvoice.com/bv_noticias/policia-prende-gangue-de-brasileiros-em-massachusetts.html.

 

[7] Concerns about Brazilian ethnic gangs in Massachusetts (especially Framingham, Worcester, and Milford) go back to at least 2007 where local police voiced concerns about Amigo dos Amigos (referring to a gang based in Rio de Janeiro) and two other gangs—Furacão [Twister] and Jovem Brazilian Mafia (JVM) [Young Brazilian Mafia]. Referring to Amigos dos Amigos [Friends of Friends], Framingham Police Chief Steven Carl told a local Massachusetts paper in 2007, “They use intimidation, fear, threats and violence, and are well-funded and have established connections with gangs in Brazil.” Liz Mineo, “Police chiefs worry about Brazilian gangs.” MetroWest Daily News. 11 November 2007, https://www.metrowestdailynews.com/x587892939.

 

[8] See Leonardo Couutino, “The Evolution of the Most Lethal Criminal Organization in Brazil—the PCC.” PRISM, Vol. 8, No, 19 February 2019, https://cco.ndu.edu/News/Article/1761039/the-evolution-of-the-most-lethal-criminal-organization-in-brazilthe-pcc/.

 

[9] As mentioned, to date no sources mention a specific PCC link.  Indeed, one confidential source our research team spoke with said the PCM is a gang with Brazilian origins but not connected with the PCC. Confidential source, 27 April 2019.

 

[10] Ryan Berg and Andrés Martínez-Fernadez, Americas Quarterly, 22 April 2019, https://www.americasquarterly.org/content/three-measures-brazil-should-take-face-organized-crime.

 

[11] For an overview of PCC tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) and expanding PCC reach in Latin America, see John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 4: Brigands, Bank Robbery, and Brazilian Gang Evolution at Ciudad del Este and the Triple Frontier.” Small Wars Journal. 26 May 2017, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/third-generation-gangs-strategic-note-no-4. The PCC’s potency and capacity to challenge the state is one reason an emerging gang like the PGM would seek to evoke a perceived link.  See John P. Sullivan, Robert J. Bunker and José de Arimatéia da Cruz, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 12: Brazilian Prison Gangs Attack Civil Infrastructure in Fortaleza and Other Cities in Ceará State.” Small Wars Journal. 17 January 2019, https://www.academia.edu/38170854/Third_Generation_Gangs_Strategic_Note_No._12_Brazilian_Prison_Gangs_Attack_Civil_Infrastructure_in_Fortaleza_and_Other_Cities_in_Ceará_State.

 

[12] Other examples are Primeiro Grupo Catarinense (PGC) and the Primeiro Grupo do Paraná (PGP). See “Cria do PCC, Primeiro Comando do MA atua em assaltos e tráfico.” Confederação Nacional dos Vigilantes (CNTV). 26 October 2006, http://www.cntv.org.br/noticia__3118__Cria-do-PCC,-Primeiro-Comando-do-MA-atua-em-assaltos-e-trafico.html#.

 

[13] See John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “A Crucible of Conflict: Third Generation Gang Studies Revisited.” Journal of Gang Research. Vol. 19, Issue 4, Summer 2012, pp. 1-20, https://www.academia.edu/8459989/A_Crucible_of_Conflict_Third_Generation_Gang_Studies_Revisited.

 

[14] Sometimes these bonds are unanticipated consequences of deporting criminal aliens as seen in the spread of maras like MS-13 and 18th Street from Los Angeles to Central America and back. See John P. Sullivan, “Transnational Gangs: The Impact of Third Generation Gangs in Central America.” Air & Space Power Journal—Spanish Edition. Second Trimester, 2008, http://www.au.af.mil/au/afri/aspj/apjinternational/apj-s/2008/2tri08/sullivaneng.htm.

 

[15] Juan Carlos Garzón and Eric L. Olson (Eds.), “The Criminal Diaspora: The Spread of Transnational Organized Crime and How to Contain its Expansion (No. 31).” Reports on the Americas. Washington, DC: Wilson Center. July 2013, https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/the-criminal-diaspora-the-spread-transnational-organized-crime-and-how-to-contain-its.

 

[16] The PCC is already showing signs of maturing into a multinational enterprise. See Diogo Rodriguez, “Brazil’s PCC has become a multinational criminal enterprise.” The Brazilian Report. 19 June 2018, https://brazilian.report/society/2018/06/19/brazil-pcc-multinational-criminal/.

 

[17] “Feds say they’ve broken up new Brazilian gang before it could get really good at violence,” Universal Hub (Boston). 27 April 2019, https://www.universalhub.com/2019/feds-say-theyve-broken-new-brazilian-gang-it-could.

 

[18] For a discussion of policing networked diasporas, particularly in relation to potential terror-crime nexus, see John P. Sullivan, “Policing Networked Disasporas.” Small Wars Journal. 9 July 2007, https://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/policing-networked-diasporas.

 

Key Words: Criminal Diasporas, Networked Diasporas, Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), Primeiro Comando da Massachusetts (PCM), Transnational Gangs 

 

Additional Reading

 

John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 4: Brigands, Bank Robbery, and Brazilian Gang Evolution at Ciudad del Este and the Triple Frontier.” Small Wars Journal. 26 May 2017.  

 

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Integrating feral cities and third phase cartels/third generation gangs research: the rise of criminal (narco) city networks and BlackFor.Small Wars & Insurgencies, 22:5, 29 November 2011.

 

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, Studies in Gangs and Cartels. London: Routledge, 2013.

 

 

Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

John P. Sullivan was a career police officer. He retired as a lieutenant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He is also an adjunct researcher at the Vortex Foundation in Bogotá, Colombia; a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Global Observatory of Transnational Criminal Networks; a senior research fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies on Terrorism (CAST); a Global Fellow at Stratfor (2018); and an instructor at the Safe Communities Institute at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. He is co-editor of Blood and Concrete: 21st Century Conflict in Urban Centers and Megacities (Xlibris, 2019), Countering Terrorism and WMD: Creating a Global Counter-Terrorism Network (Routledge, 2006) and Global Biosecurity: Threats and Responses (Routledge, 2010) and co-author of Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency: A Small Wars Journal-El Centro Anthology (iUniverse, 2011), Studies in Gangs and Cartels (Routledge, 2013), and The Rise of The Narcostate (Mafia States) (Xlibris, 2018). He completed the CREATE Executive Program in Counter-Terrorism at the University of Southern California and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the College of William and Mary, a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and Policy Analysis from the New School for Social Research, and a PhD from the Open University of Catalonia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) in Barcelona. His doctoral thesis was “Mexico’s Drug War: Cartels, Gangs, Sovereignty and the Network State.” His current research focus is the impact of transnational organized crime on sovereignty in Mexico and other countries.

Dr. José de Arimatéia da Cruz is a Professor of International Relations and International Studies at Georgia Southern University, Savannah, GA. He also is an Adjunct Research Professor at the U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, Carlisle, PA, and a Research Fellow of the Brazil Research Unit at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, DC.

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is an Adjunct Research Professor, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College and Adjunct Faculty, Division of Politics and Economics, Claremont Graduate University. He holds university degrees in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science, and history and has undertaken hundreds of hours of counterterrorism training. Past professional associations include Distinguished Visiting Professor and Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College; Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico, VA; Staff Member (Consultant), Counter-OPFOR Program, National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center-West; and Adjunct Faculty, National Security Studies M.A. Program and Political Science Department, California State University, San Bernardino, CA. Dr. Bunker has hundreds of publications including Studies in Gangs and Cartels, with John Sullivan (Routledge, 2013),  Red Teams and Counterterrorism Training, with Stephen Sloan (University of Oklahoma, 2011), and edited works, including Global Criminal and Sovereign Free Economies and the Demise of the Western Democracies: Dark Renaissance (Routledge, 2014), co-edited with Pamela Ligouri Bunker; Criminal Insurgencies in Mexico and the Americas: The Gangs and Cartels Wage War (Routledge, 2012); Narcos Over the Border: Gangs, Cartels and Mercenaries (Routledge, 2011); Criminal-States and Criminal-Soldiers (Routledge, 2008); Networks, Terrorism and Global Insurgency (Routledge, 2005); and Non-State Threats and Future Wars (Routledge, 2002).