In videos that pay homage to the neighborhood they left behind, alleged members of the Columbia Point Dawgs street gang bragged about making money and shooting at competitors — and tried to incite attacks on a rival gang, according to federal court documents.
Using the names 8 Bus Records and Waterboyz, alleged members and associates have used YouTube as an outlet for their rap videos, which has led to gunfire on the streets of Boston and to the kidnapping of one of its members by a rival gang, according to an FBI affidavit.
The gang was the target of a massive law enforcement sweep Thursday morning, one of the biggest in the city’s history. Federal prosecutors charged 48 people in six indictments with a range of gun and drug crimes, some carrying minimum punishments of 20 years in prison. By Friday, 42 of the suspects had been arrested; authorities said they were still pursuing six. The FBI considers them dangerous.
Some members of the Dawgs have artistic connections to Raymond Scott, the Dorchester native better known as Benzino, the former star of VH1’s popular reality show, Love & Hip Hop Atlanta. Scott has his musical roots in the Almighty RSO, a group infamous to police in the Boston area for a 1990s song called, “One in the Chamba.’’
Scott was shot and wounded, allegedly by his 36-year-old nephew, Gai Scott, during the funeral procession of Raymond Scott’s mother on Route 3 on March 30, 2014. Raymond Scott wrote a song, “Blood on my Watch’’ about the incident. Gai Scott has pleaded not guilty.
Raymond Scott was traveling in California on Friday. “I deal with lots of people in the music industry, and beyond that I will not make any further comment,’’ Scott said in a statement released by his attorney, Martin Leppo.
Scott has directed and appeared in videos featuring Willie Berry, who used the stage name of Sco or Scodough. Berry has operated 8 Bus Records out of the family home on Radcliffe Street in Dorchester, according to the affidavit. Berry was arrested Thursday as part of the gang sweep.
Berry allegedly is the leader of one crew of the Dawgs, which had its start in the Columbia Point public housing development in the 1980s and spread outside that neighborhood and established itself as the dominant street gang in Boston, according to federal authorities.
Berry was among the alleged members of the Dawgs and their associates who are accused of participating in large-volume drug sales in Boston for years. Authorities also allege the Dawgs are responsible for a significant amount of crime in the city for decades, including murders and numerous non-fatal shootings.
In the affidavit, the FBI alleged that members of the Dawgs posted a video in October 2014 in which they displayed grand jury minutes and Boston police homicide unit reports identifying four members of Orchard Park, a rival gang, as cooperating witnesses in a murder case. Dawgs members offered to sell the information for $19.95 in an attempt to “incite retaliation by other street gangs against Orchard Park gang members,” the FBI said.
Charis E. Kubrin, a professor of criminology, law, and society at University of California Irvine, has studied people’s perceptions about the ties between gangs and the hip-hop music industry. Kubrin believes the connection is overblown.
“The vast majority of aspiring rappers are not involved in gangs,’’ she said
But she added, “That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. This is one tool they can use to promote their gangs.’’
Authorities alleged in court papers that gang members used the record labels to promote rap shows and sometimes demanded “protection fees” or a tax from out-of-state performers.
Mark V. Scott, associate pastor at Azusa Christian Community in Dorchester, praised officials for the long-running investigation into the powerful street gang. He said he was heartened by the timing of the arrests, because they came the same day that funeral services were held for 16-year-old Jonathan Dos Santos, who was shot to death on June 10.
Two teenagers, one 14 and one 16, have pleaded not guilty to murder charges and are being held without bail.
“We’re grieving the loss of Jonathan Dos Santos. And I’ve been asking myself, where did a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old get those guns?” Scott said. “So right on the day we’re grieving the loss of one of the community’s sons, killed by another two of our sons, the police executed a major effort to address a lot of the violence in the community.”