Federal wiretaps targeting cell phones used by Southern California white power gangs allegedly trafficking methamphetamine also turned up a surprise identity theft racket being run by an alleged member of the notorious Lakeside Gangsters, a “multi-generational criminal street gang” with ties to the Aryan Brotherhood and Supreme Power Skins, according to an FBI search warrant application obtained by The Daily Beast.
The investigation began as part of “Operation Shamrock Shake,” a joint investigation led by the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force-Gang Group targeting the Aryan Brotherhood, a prison gang, and its “subordinate white power street gangs,” the Supreme Power Skins, the Nazi Low Riders, and the Lakeside Gangsters, the document states. Although Aryan Brotherhood members make up just .1 percent of California’s overall prison population, they are responsible for some 50 percent of all homicides inside state prisons, it adds.
The group is known for its “ability to control subordinate White/Caucasian gangs outside of prison” as it collects “‘taxes’ or payments from these gangs to further their criminal enterprise,” according to the warrnat, which also notes the Aryan Brotherhood’s “history and reputation for using violence as a means of maintaining power and being a force to be reckoned with as a criminal enterprise...involved in drug trafficking, firearms trafficking, extortion, murder, and assaults.”
During the FBI probe, which the bureau conducted with, among others, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the San Diego Police and Sheriff’s Departments, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Internal Revenue Service, investigators identified an alleged high-ranking member of the Lakeside Gangsters named Brett Wenbourne. The warrant application says Wenbourne, known as “Split,” was a meth supplier for Todd “Coyote” Johnson, a so-called shot caller for the Supreme Power Skins.
“Wenbourne is also involved in violent acts aimed against individuals within the Lakeside community who are believed to be cooperating with law enforcement or went into protective custody or ‘PC’ when incarcerated within county jail or state prison, which is considered a punishable offense against the criminal street gang and Aryan Brotherhood prison gang,” the document continues. In August 2019, investigators received permission from a federal judge to monitor Wenbourne’s phone calls.
While listening in, the feds heard Wenbourne and other members of the Lakeside Gangsters discussing check fraud and identity theft with Aaron “Rhino” Rose, a Lakeside Gangsters associate.
In July of 2019, San Diego deputy sheriffs had arrested Rose on fraud charges, finding phony checks, a bogus driver’s license, and someone else’s credit card in his possession. Rose was freed on bail, but stayed in investigators’ sights. In an August, 2019 phone call with Wenbourne, Rose discussed assaulting a jailed gang member they suspected of being a rat, the warrant application says. Cops set up covert surveillance outside Rose’s home in El Cajon, California. The following month, they saw Rose leave his house with two others.
The trio attempted to purchase $301 worth of groceries at a local store with a check and a temporary California driver’s license, but a suspicious clerk rejected the transaction, says the warrant. They then drove back to Rose’s house and returned to the store with another check. This time, they were successful, walking out with $369.57 worth of goods.
Investigators examined the check, which was drawn on someone else’s bank account. That person subsequently filed a theft report and told police that his car had been broken into a day or two earlier, and that four of his checkbooks had been stolen.
About two weeks later, investigators staked out a local motel where Rose was apparently staying, and tailed him as he left in a Ford Explorer. When they pulled him over, the officers found three “high quality” counterfeit California driver’s licenses in his pocket, two of which were under the same name as the checks that had been stolen earlier that month but with a photo of Rose on each.
The victim—who asked that his name not be revealed publicly—said he never heard anything from authorities after reporting the theft, and had no idea the people who burglarized his vehicle were associated with a white power prison gang until The Daily Beast called him for comment.
“The only thing I know is that I did have my backpack stolen out of my car,” the man told The Daily Beast. “The police took a report and said they were able to follow some leads that led them to a conclusion of something in the area. But I never heard anything back, never got any of my stuff back, never had any follow up whatsoever.”
In a search of Rose’s motel room, cops found a backpack, two printers, a laptop, a non-working stun gun, $956 in counterfeit currency, blank checks under various people’s names, a stolen credit card, money orders, “numerous” ID cards, handwritten notes, and a meth pipe.
At first, Rose denied any knowledge of the items found in the room. But when cops asked how he felt about the people whose identities had been stolen and said they might not be able to get their money back, Rose attempted to portray himself as a thoughtful thief.
“It all gets recouped,” he told police. “Check doesn’t affect credit at all...I don’t fuck with credit cards...I don’t do anything that hurts anybody.”
He then claimed that making fake IDs was just a “little hobby” that did not damage his victims’ credit.
“Yeah, I’ll admit, I make IDs once in a while,” he said, according to the warrant. “There’s nothing illegal about that.”
Investigators say Rose stole at least 19 people’s identities.
“The circumstances from which each victim’s identity was stolen ranged from vehicle burglaries to commercial burglaries to a purse theft from a local mall,” says the warrant, which is signed by FBI Special Agent Peter Pisciotta. “Investigators are still in the investigation phase of this case, and I estimate more victims will be located based on the raw personal information seized and numerous victims related to the electronics on this warrant.”
The warrant seeks permission to search six different devices, including an iPad, three laptops, a Samsung tablet, and a Coolpad cell phone. Rose has not yet been charged, and does not have a lawyer listed in federal court records. The Daily Beast was unable to reach him for comment.
Investigators said in the warrant application that they had previously been unsuccessful in extracting all the data on the devices, but want to try again since forensic technology has improved since then.