Public Enemy Number 1: California's Growing Racist Gang
Posted: January 17, 2007
With many of the male members of Public Enemy Number 1 (PENI) locked up, its female members and associates often become the "worker bees" of the group. Women are given monikers and may participate in criminal activity. In fact, according to law enforcement, some within PENI view it as preferable for female members to carry out certain criminal activities precisely because they can better hide their affiliation with PENI and blend in more easily with the general population. In contrast with male PENI members, women often have tattoos that are hidden or small in size and do not adhere to a specific manner of dress or hairstyle.
Women are expected to provide income to the gang, often through menial jobs, and to rent apartments for gang members to help them hide from authorities when needed. Some have served as drug couriers; others have worked at or have applied for jobs that might help gang-related activities, such as at a bail bond business or pharmacy, or as non-sworn law-enforcement personnel.
Key female members of the group can be crucial in facilitating PENI activities, especially by acting as links for incarcerated PENI members to the outside world by keeping up contacts outside of prison. Women play a key role in helping jailed PENI members circumvent restrictions on prisoners' telephone and written communications in a variety of ways, including facilitating three-way calling between members in prison to third parties, coordinating conference calls between inmates and gang members on the street, receiving collect calls from an inmate, using "call forwarding" to transfer the call to another individual, and helping inmates communicate with each other using mail dumps. Additionally, a female gang member may conceal the true source of a letter by various means, such as giving it the appearance of a legal document sent by an attorney.
Women also raise money to place on the inmates' prison "books." Inmates are allowed access to this money to use in prison convenience stores (male PENI members will also sometimes do this for incarcerated members). One PENI associate, in a 2001 television interview, described her caretaking and support role for PENI members as being akin to a "den mother." Simone Lawrence, another PENI associate, was convicted in March 2006 of committing identity theft for the sake of benefiting PENI.
The status of individual women within PENI is typically based on their male partner's position within the organization. For example, the wives of PENI's key leaders are considered to have the highest status level, which grants them respect, protection and monetary provisions. Nonetheless, PENI does not officially induct women into the organization nor can women hold leadership positions.
Law enforcement authorities have warned that even though the number of arrests of female members is small, women can be just as dangerous and criminally active as male members. For example, one woman, Monica "Mouth" Witak, was convicted of witness intimidation in association with PENI. While housed at the Orange County Jail, Witak wrote a letter to a PENI member in another prison facility, requesting an assault against an individual who witnessed her cellmate's murder case. Witak received a five year sentence for the incident. Another woman, Kim Arrighi Fanelli, Nick Rizzo's sister-in-law, was convicted of possession of a shotgun and pseudo-ephedrine to make methamphetamines and sentenced to five years.