MINNEAPOLIS -- Two Minneapolis men were charged Thursday with a landslide of felony charges involving an alleged organized crime ring they ran on the city's north side.
A complaint filed in Hennepin County Court Thursday details a three-year probe Minneapolis police conducted on the criminal operation investigators say was headed by 36-year-old Joseph Duane (Little Joe) Gustafson Jr. and his bodyguard and associate Troy Michael Neuberger, age 39.
Investigators say Gustafson, Neuberger and a handful of associates operated under an umbrella organization they called the "Beat Down Posse" (BDP). According to the criminal complaint they operated at times from a bail bonds business owned by Gustafson's father, Joe Gustafson Sr. He is not charged at this time.
Following the activities of the organization between 2005 to 2009 and beyond, police say Gustafson, Neuberger and their associates engaged in crimes ranging from assaults and robbery to kidnapping and weapons and drug offenses.
"We finally said enough's enough," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told reporters as a briefing Thursday afternoon, "It's time to charge one of the Mr. Bigs and we have. If that helps slow down crime on the north side that's good."
The complaint says the BDP carried out most of their crimes during raids on properties that the suspects knew housed drug dealers. Prosecutors allege the BDP would enter the homes under the guise of being bail enforcement agents searching for a fugitive. Once inside, the suspects would beat and rob the suspects of drugs and cash.
"Growing up on the northside, being a northsider, going after this group has been something that we've striving to do for a long, long time," Police Chief Tim Dolan remarked.
"They're very, very good at avoiding being prosecuted. They're very slippery in a lot of ways."
Police say the beat-downs were often referred to as 'Hector missions,' named after a man who jumped bail and cost Little Joe Gustafson and his father's business, Gustafson's bail bonds Inc., a large sum of money.
"One of the modus operandi of the Beat Down Posse is to wear jackets that say 'bail bondsman' and figure out who's selling dope, break into house and say, 'We're looking for Hector'," Freeman explained.
"In the process of looking for Hector they shake down everybody in the room, take the money and drugs and leave. And some times beat people."
Prosecutors also allege that Gustafson committed mortgage fraud by recruiting a group of straw buyers to buy homes by supplying a mortgage broker with falsified information. The values of those properties were exaggerated, meaning loans were extended for more than the homes were worth. Most of those properties were later foreclosed on.
They were not formally charged with arson, but Chief Dolan said the group came under heightened scrutiny when a series of homes with questionable paperwork on the northside were torched.
"We welcome today's developments," City Council Member Barb Johnson added, "These folks have had a long history in North Minneapolis of terrorizing neighbors, and at times their dogs would terrorize neighbors."
The complaint says Gustafson and his father pocketed tens of thousands of dollars through the illegal transactions. Again, no formal charges were filed against Gustafson Sr., referred to as "Big Joe" in the charging documents.
Charges against Joseph Duane Gustafson include racketeering, kidnapping, sale of a controlled substance, felon in possession of a firearm and theft by swindle.
Troy Michael Neuberger is charged with multiple counts of racketeering, terroristic threats, assault and kidnapping.
The alleged crime ring last year was the subject of a City Pages story entitled "Fallen Angel," a reference to Joe Gustafson Sr.'s one-time membership in the motorcycle group known as the Hell's Angels.
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