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Social networking for criminals?

Turns out the bad guys are using social networking sites too.

Francisco Ortiz, who Maryland authorities say is a member of the violent Latin Kings street gang, allegedly told his fellow gang members to clean up their MySpace pages in case Big Brother was watching.

Ortiz, who goes by "King Pone," issued a "d.o." -- that’s code for direct order --to the gang’s Maryland chapter, known as the Royal Lion Tribe of Maryland, court papers unsealed Thursday revealed.

The October 2008 order: take any photographs of "hammers and knives" off your MySpace page.

Unclear if Ortiz emailed the order or told his friends in person, but authorities said he was worried the police wanted "to do RICO" on all of them. Anybody who disobeyed could "catch a physie," or beating.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said gang members use electronic communication just like the rest of us, and that authorities are paying attention. Ortiz and 18 other alleged Latin Kings members were indicted in federal court on racketeering charges.

-- Maria Glod

By Maria Glod  |  November 20, 2009; 7:30 AM ET
Categories:  Maria Glod , Maryland  
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Some teenaged kid interviewed on NPR said that MySpace was for "trashy people." Guess he wasn't far from the truth.

I could see the appeal for gang members because of MySpace’s potential to let you plaster graffiti tags and other crass imagery all over your page.

The under-25-and-illiterate/semi-literate demographic is a scourge to the internet, based on the barely intelligible pidgin English and Spanish I see on YouTube and elsewhere.

Posted by: FedUpInMoCo | November 20, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I don't know whether the alleged gang members in Maryland are illiterate or wordsmiths, but FedUpinMoCo makes a good point about the new virtual graffiti.

Shawn Williams, president of the National Alliance of Gang Investigators Association, tells me that "MySpace is a gang investigator's best friend."

Williams of the Brownsville, TN police department said investigators there have looked at social networking sites in some gang cases. He said gang members can create a reputation online by posting gang symbols and photos.

"They can build it, sometimes without having to do anything," he said.

By the way, in the Maryland case, Latin King gang members allegedly were ordered by a leader to take photos of "hammers" and knives off their MySpace pages, authorities said. Hammers is slang for guns.

Posted by: MariaGlod | November 20, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I just can't figure out how the WashPost manages to find such cute reporters. With that said, I couldn't find a page for Ms. Glod on any of the social networking sites . . .

Posted by: Crimewatch2000 | November 20, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

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