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September 9, 2022Beaumont, TX, United StatesTransnational Gangs

Aryan Circle gang leader sentenced to life in prison for RICO violations following HSI Houston-assisted investigation

BEAUMONT, Texas – The leader of a white supremacist prison gang known as the Aryan Circle was sentenced to life in prison Sept. 8 for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) violations following an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) that included Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston.

Jesse Paul “JP” Blankenship, a 39-year-old resident of Stratford, Missouri, received the sentence in the Eastern District of Texas after being convicted on Nov. 16, 2021, of racketeering conspiracy, kidnapping in aid of racketeering, and conspiracy to commit kidnapping in aid of racketeering.

Evidence presented at trial showed that between 2010 and 2021, Blankenship “put in work” by committing violence on behalf of the gang, including shooting at two victims inside their home and participating in a kidnapping and removal of another member’s patch, or gang tattoo, by burning it from the victim’s skin using a metal rod heated with a blowtorch. After committing these crimes, Blankenship moved up in rank in the gang and has since ordered additional acts of violence.

“This case exemplifies great collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement to not only stop gang violence in prison, but also to protect innocent persons when that activity overflows into our communities,” said Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston. “We will continue to investigate and prosecute those who advocate harm to others, and to specifically target the leaders of violent gangs.”

“Violent gangs pose a growing threat to our communities and the type of violence associated with these organizations has reached an intolerable level,” said Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Houston. “This case demonstrates that members of violent gangs that engage in heinous crimes will be held accountable.”

Other law enforcement agencies that participated in the OCDETF investigation included: ATF Houston; Drug Enforcement Administration; Federal Bureau of Prisons; Texas Department of Public Safety; Houston Police Department-Gang Division; Montgomery County Precinct One Constable’s Office; Texas Department of Criminal Justice; New Jersey Department of Corrections-Special Investigations Division; Indiana State Police; Fort Smith Arkansas Police Department; Arkansas Department of Corrections; Arnold Missouri Police Department; Jefferson County Missouri Sheriff’s Department; St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department; St. Louis County Missouri Police Department; Indiana Department of Corrections; Carrollton Police Department; Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office; Travis County Sheriff’s Office; Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office; Evangeline Parish Louisiana Sheriff’s Office; Smith County Sheriff’s Office; McCurtain County Oklahoma Sheriff’s Office; Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office; Liberty County District Attorney’s Office; Harris County District Attorney’s Office; Mercer County New Jersey Prosecutor’s Office; Evangeline Parish Louisiana District Attorney’s Office; and the Sebastian County Arkansas District Attorney’s Office. Valuable assistance was provided by the OCDETF.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Rapp of the Eastern District of Texas along with Trial Attorney Rebecca Dunnan of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime and Gang Section prosecuted the case.

The Aryan Circle is a race-based, violent prison gang with hundreds of members operating throughout the country, both inside and outside of prisons. The Aryan Circle enforces its rules and promotes discipline among its members, prospects, and associates through threats, intimidation, assaults, and murder.

For more news and information on HSI Houston’s efforts to keep Southeast Texas communities safe from transnational gangs and other violent criminal activity follow us on Twitter @HSIHouston.

Updated: 09/09/2022