Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - In December of 2008, twenty Charlotte gang members were sentenced in federal prison. That has been a headline for months.
What you haven't heard is how it happened. WBTV researched the real story on how the FBI, CMPD and the U.S. Attorney's office crippled Charlotte's most dangerous homegrown gang, and sent a message to other gangbangers.
We took the time to investigate thsi bust because The Hidden Valley Kings are an example of how gangs effect neighborhoods all over the area -- not just one particular community. The gang members did most of their drug deals in Hidden Valley, but did commit crimes and travel into all other neighborhoods around Charlotte.
"We set a standard at the beginning of the case that we wanted two purchases of crack cocaine from each defendant," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Zolor. "So, that was the goal. We hit that goal. All 20 pled guilty."
Zolot says they hit that goal mainly by using undercover audio and video. Agents got informants to wire up and tape conversations, ride-alongs, drug deals and all kinds of crack.
"We probably had upwards of 70 videos," said Zolot. "That's a lot."
Anchor Molly Grantham went through the hours and hours of undercover, grainy video. Some were of drug deals, some were of ride-alongs and conversations about drug deals and some showed hidden guns falling out of gang members pants.
But the most memorable video was of a guy cooking crack in his microwave, with a baby crying in the background.
"The bigger Charlotte gets the more important it becomes to the drug trafficking trade," says Zolot.
"And make no doubt the gang is still in existance," he adds. "We took out the main guys, but there are others still there. There was the Hidden Valley Kings and there was a feeder gang which was the juveniles, the Northside Valley Boys, called the Valley Boys. We've driven them underground a bit more, but they're still there."