Loose link in gun-running conspiracy pleads guilty
The man who accidentally drew law enforcement’s attention to a major gun and drug-selling operation run by the Lao Gangster Crips in Roseville, Citrus Heights and Sacramento pleaded guilty to his own involvement in the conspiracy Thursday.
With Derrick Hardin convicted, Placer County prosecutors are now focusing on the gang’s primary members.
The case revolves around the violent North Sacramento gang, LGC, allegedly transporting and selling military-grade weapons and methamphetamine in several locations, including the parking lot of Roseville’s Ace Hardware on Harding Boulevard. In addition to the six Laotian defendants, the case also involves two non-Asian conspirators, one of whom is Hardin.
According to probable cause documents, it was Hardin who first inadvertently showed law enforcement that LCG members were selling semi and fully automatic guns. Hardin had told an acquaintance he could arrange the sale of an AK-47 for $1,200 by contacting his friend, Jady Mysoth. The person Hardin made the offer to was actually a confidential informant working with a special detective at the California Highway Patrol.
CHP and federal agents began reviewing intelligence on Hardin, who lived on Lerwick Road in Sacramento with his brother, Frank Hardin. The lead detective’s report notes both Derrick and Frank Hardin are convicted criminals. Derrick Hardin’s rap sheet goes back to 1994 and includes convictions for possession of methamphetamine, carrying a concealed firearm, receiving known stolen property, making criminal threats and domestic violence.
The arrest warrant for Hardin in the gun conspiracy case charges that he helped arrange the sale of an AK-47 between undercover agents and Mysoth on Arcade Boulevard on Aug. 2, 2011.
As the investigation moved forward, Mysoth was allegedly indentified as one of the main leaders of the conspiracy. Mysoth is a known member of LGC. He and co-defendant Sisouphanh Phomma are also charged with street terrorism.
Hardin’s involvement appears to have ended after the first exchange of cash for weapons, while Mysoth and other members of LGC are charged with meeting state and federal agents another 18 times to sell weapons and meth.
On Thursday, Hardin waved the white flag in respect to his involvement in the case, pleading guilty to one count of engaging in illegal activity with an assault weapon. He was sentenced to 200 days in county jail and three years of formal probation.
Hardin’s defense attorney, Don Tomlin, told the Press Tribune his client had very limited participation in the gun-running operation.
“He didn’t possess anything and he didn’t sell anything,” Tomlin said. “He just referred someone to someone else. He really wasn’t involved. I think it was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Whether Hardin was an actual member of the Lao Gangster Crips remains unclear, though experts from the Sacramento Police Department told the Press Tribune that LGC has been known to allow non-Laotians to join, especially when they feel weak in numbers compared to their rival gang, the El Camino Crips.
Tomlin doesn’t believe Hardin is seriously connected to LGC.
“My understanding is he just knew them from around the neighborhood,” he said.
Placer County Deputy District Attorney Douglas Van Breemen agreed that Hardin had a minor role in the gun sales.
“He was just involved in facilitating the first deal,” Van Breemen said. “He’s the third of the nine defendants to enter a guilty plea. The people have been making offers to the others that reflect their culpability in the case.”
Van Breemen confirmed that Mysoth is the main focus of the case, saying, “He was the heavy player.”
Scott Thomas Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at ScottA_RsvPT.