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Little Joe Gustafson charged with 14 counts, racketeering

Little Joe Gustafson, leader of the Beat Down Posse, was booked into jail this morning
Little Joe Gustafson, leader of the Beat Down Posse, was booked into jail this morning

Joseph Duane "Little Joe" Gustafson, a North Minneapolis man who terrorized his neighborhood for years, is being charged today with 14 felony counts: racketeering, assault, making terroristic threats, kidnapping, drugs, and theft.

Gustafson and his father Joseph Robert "Big Joe" Gustafson, a former Hell's Angel who ran a bail bond business, have been the targets of a three-year probe investigating an organized crime ring they ran in North Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Police Department uncovered evidence of arson, kidnapping, mortgage fraud, assault, and drugs. We documented all this one year ago in our cover story, "Fallen Angel."

Little Joe Gustafson charged with 14 counts, racketeering

Now, Gustafson is finally getting his comeuppance. Since our story broke, Little Joe, 36, has been charged with a few crimes--but today's development is a major breakthrough in the case.  Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman is calling a press conference about the case this afternoon.

The criminal complaint lays out a dazzling pattern of organized crime and corruption that has festered in our city's northern side for years.

With the help of his right-hand man, 39-year-old Troy Michael Neuberger, Little Joe ran a criminal organization known as the "Beat-Down Posse." The Gustafsons recruited for their group, dangling the promise of unlimited women to anyone who joined "the team," the complaint alleges. Each member of the group had an individual assignment, based on their skills.

Drug dealers were especially prized--a man named Mike Swafford was recruited because he sold drugs and owned a tow truck.

Troy Michael Neuberger was Little Joe's right-hand man
Troy Michael Neuberger was Little Joe's right-hand man

Little Joe ruled with paramilitary discipline, mandating weekly Thursday night meetings that BDP members referred to as "church." The Gustafsons intimidated dealers into coming into their fold, then charged them a 10 percent "tax" on their sales, the complaint alleges. In return, the dealers got prestige, all those supposed ladies, and protection.

The BDP used the bail business, Gustafson's Bail Bonds, as an excuse to steal from their victims. Big Joe had once bailed out a man named Hector Fonseco, who skipped town and left Big Joe footing the bill for the $12,000 bond. Over and over, members of the group kicked in doors of Mexican families on Lake Street, claiming they were looking for "Hector." They'd take their victims' money and drugs.

If anyone tried to resist--and often, even if they didn't--the BDP was ready to pummel them into submission. One one occasion, the BDP assaulted a dealer and fractured his skull, leaving him for dead, bloodied in a bathtub. The victim need seventeen stitches to sew up his skull.

If their fists weren't intimidating enough, the Gustafsons carried--and sold--guns.

 

Over the years, the Gustafsons owned a number of homes in North Minneapolis, which they used as staging grounds for their crimes. In our cover story, we documented a number of suspicious fires at the Gustafson properties--many of the fires were ruled arsons, and they always seemed to happen just after the Gustafsons had made a lot of money by selling their homes. According to the criminal complaint, the Gustafsons sold seven homes to straw buyers, netting nearly $300,000 in illicit payouts.

Little Joe Gustafson faces 14 counts.
Little Joe Gustafson faces 14 counts.

The Gustafson case has been a labor of love for the investigators involved--so many years and so much investigative effort--but it almost didn't come to prosecution because of politics. Sgt. Kelly O'Rourke, a decorated Minneapolis officer, led the Gustafson probe and collected a huge amount of evidence. The FBI, the IRS, and the Minnesota Department of Commerce also contributed, and the case was wrapped up and handed over the U.S. Attorney's Office last year.

But last summer, the U.S. Attorney's Office dragged their feet. O'Rourke's name had been dragged through the mud because of his connection with the now-disbanded Metro Gang Strike Force. The investigator was accused of stealing an ice auger. Though his name was fully cleared, insiders say the scandal stalled the case against the Gustafsons. Meanwhile, some of the charges--specifically, the arson cases--timed out.

Fortunately, the Hennepin County Attorney took the case and started doling out charges last fall. Gustafson, Neuberger, and two other flunkies, Robert Allan Engels and Joshua Ramos, were charged with a crimes ranging from making terroristic threats to mortgage fraud.

Today's charges are the most thorough and wide-ranging. The criminal complaint lays out in detail a series of crimes committed by Little Joe and the Beat Down Posse.

The documents charging Little Joe with racketeering
The documents charging Little Joe with racketeering

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: *Fallen Angel: Joe Gustafson lives above the law in North Minneapolis *Joe Gustafson's bail bond license yanked by state *Joe Gustafson Jr. and his Beat Down Posse charged *Little Joe Gustafson goes to court *Joe Gustafson Jr. faces charges of mortgage fraud


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