LEE COUNTY, Fla. - A well-known Fort Myers gang called the Lake Boyz used social media to spread their influence, according to court documents.
Investigators say music videos posted to Youtube, which feature some of the gang's members, were one of the tools the gang used to expand their criminal enterprise.
In a 204-page arrest affidavit, detectives detailed evidence which revealed the inner workings of what they call a "loosely organized" criminal ring.
The findings of the 14-month investigation by the Fort Myers Police Department led to the arrest of 21 Lake Boyz on January 19th; a case which involved the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO Act). Monday, 15 Lake Boyz gang members were arraigned in Lee County court on multiple charges including racketeering.
According to detectives, the gang has roots in the Harlem Lakes neighborhood in Dunbar; however their crimes, which range from car burglaries to murders, spread throughout Lee County.
Detectives say the Lake Boyz used social media to gain influence "the way prior gangs used graffiti." Hashtags such as "lakeboyzbaby" or "greatlakesbaby" are used by gang members and associates on social media sites. The Lake Boyz also have a community Facebook page which had over 160 likes.
Investigators used four informants to gather intel on the gang. One of the informants was a documented Lake Boyz member who told detectives "members of the Lake Boyz organization were able to gain respect by shooting at people," an act gang members reportedly referred to as "wild and crazy."
According to the affidavit, when dealing with gang rivalries "gang members, associates or family members would drive by a rival gangs' turf to see if they were outside so that they can then shoot at them shortly after."
Authorities say members often used coded language such as K.O.S., an acronym which means "kill on sight." Detectives say Lake Boyz would use the acronym to warn or intimidate rival gang members.
Another term often used was "12" which is used to alert other members of the presence of law enforcement.
Gang members also use an L-hand symbol to show their affiliation to the gang; detectives say the gang sign stands for Lake Boyz or Harlem Lakes.
The Lake Boyz have been around since 1993 and consists of over 30 members and associates according to detectives.