Three northern Arizona residents are going to prison for their roles in a criminal street gang that authorities say is responsible for at least three murders on the Navajo Nation, drug trafficking, kidnappings, aggravated assaults and witness intimidation.
The Red Skin Kingz, founded in 2003 in Lukachukai near the Arizona-New Mexico border sought to instill fear in tribal communities, using social media to raise its profile and recruit new members, federal prosecutors said. Members bought methamphetamine and cocaine from towns that border the reservation and operated a drug business from a gang member's home where she also sold steamed corn, according to court records.
Three of them were sentenced this week in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, including the gang's leader, Devan Leonard, 28. All pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to participate in racketeering.
"This case is a testament to our office's commitment to use every available resource to combat gang violence in Arizona and to bring justice to the victims of violent crime," First Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Strange said in a statement.
The supervisor of criminal investigations on the Navajo Nation did not immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday.
Leonard received the lengthiest sentence of 50 years behind bars. He and fellow gang member Randall Begay fatally shot two men in Lukachukai in December 2014, one in the face after the man pleaded with them not to shoot him a second time, court records show. Leonard and Begay then burned the bodies of the victims, who aren't named in court documents, and left the remains in a shallow hole.
Begay is scheduled to be sentenced later this year.
Days after the shooting, Leonard and 26-year-old gang member Kyle Gray killed a man whose family in Gallup, New Mexico, later reported missing. Tim Saucedo, 44, had driven to a picnic area at Wheatfields Lake to sell methamphetamine to the gang members and was shot in the chest after the drug deal, court records show. His body was dismembered and burned in a fire pit in a heavily wooded area where Gray's family would take sheep to graze in the spring and summer, according to court records.
Authorities said Leonard and Gray later kidnapped a witness and threatened to harm her child if she told anyone what happened.
Gray received a 30-year prison sentence.
Prosecutors say a third defendant, Lucille Leonard, oversaw the gang's drug trafficking operation from her home near Lukachukai where methamphetamine and cocaine were stored. The 48-year-old was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
A grand jury indictment from 2016 details numerous other crimes that authorities say were part of the racketeering conspiracy, including sexual assault and witness intimidation. Gang members shot rivals, burned the dwelling of a victim because they believed the family was cooperating with law enforcement and stole vehicles.
They spray-painted graffiti throughout Lukachukai and at crime scenes. The Red Skin Kingz loosely were allied with a gang in the Fort Defiance area but considered all others rivals, according to court documents.