"The only purpose of a government is to protect a man's rights, which means: To protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, an agent of man's self defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper function s of a government are: The police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud from others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective laws. - John Galt in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged
Houston, Texas – October, the First Year
Growing up on the streets of Houston had made Ignacio Garcia both wary and smart. He never used any drugs other than some occasional marijuana. And he never sold drugs. He realized that was sure to get him arrested, eventually, because customers always talked. His only contacts with heavy drug users were some that he hired, to work his burglaries. Garcia developed a reputation as a clever burglar who never got caught. His modus operandi was exacting: Hit between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays, when nobody was home. Avoid lower class neighborhoods, where the pickings weren’t worth bothering, and avoid the wealthy neighborhoods where they all had burglar alarms. Instead, he hit middle class neighborhoods, where there were still things worth stealing, but where they didn’t have their guard up.
Garcia started out by doing burglaries himself, but soon moved on to organizing and equipping teams to do the work for him. To approach middle class houses surreptitiously, he outfitted his teams to look like plumbers, carpet cleaners, or gardeners. Their vehicles looked very convincing. Garcia then fenced his goods though a network of pawn shops, flea market dealers, and coin dealers who could keep their mouths shut. He had his teams concentrate on jewelry, guns, coin collections, cash, and high-end digital cameras. He made a point of never keeping any stolen merchandise at home. He paid several little old ladies to rent storage spaces for him. Eventually, he had almost a dozen places to hide his stolen goods.
Garcia was never associated with any of the big gangs, although he did recruit a few members of MS-13. He kept his own gang—“the gang with no name” as quiet as possible, and discouraged them from antagonizing any other gangs. Garcia often said, “Let them bicker and kill each other, while we hang back and just make lots of money.”
The stoners that worked for Garcia sometimes did stupid crack head stuff. Even though he gave them explicit directions, they’d ignore him and bring back things like big screen HD televisions, bottles of various prescription medicines, and kitchen appliances. One time, one of his men brought back plastic bags of live koi carp that they had stolen from a pond. This pond was in the backyard of a house that they had trouble entering. Some of the items had to be discarded, or took weeks to fence.
Three years before the Crunch, Ignacio realized that some upper-middle class people rarely let their guard down. For these targets, Garcia started to train and equip his home invasion team. He selected his most ruthless yet most level-headed men. He gave them some of his best guns, and carefully selected targets –mostly ones that he’d previously had to pass up. He called this team “La Fuerza”—The Force. Most of their home invasions took place at mid-day, when there would likely be just one adult at home.
The home invasions went remarkably well. Because Garcia insisted on a strict six minute time limit inside a target house, La Fuerza never met the police face to face. Eventually, he split La Fuerza into two teams of six men each. Their take was so lucrative that he eventually stopped using his traditional burglary teams altogether. He gave control and ownership of that whole operation to his cousin Simon.
Garcia grew up in Houston’s Second Ward, but after he built up capital from his burglaries, he bought a house in Greenspoint, on the north side. This was a nice suburban neighborhood that was roughly half Hispanic. He did his best to blend in. Ignacio told his neighbors that he was in the import/export business. In a way, he was right. He just exported things from people’s houses, and imported them into his own.
When the Crunch started, there were 16 full members of Garcia’s gang. As the economy cratered, Garcia realized that he had to switch gears quickly. Previously, his goal had been converting stolen goods into cash. But now cash was perishable and even undesirable. The goods themselves were more valuable. He also realized that once Houston became the target of rioting, that the whole city would be locked down, and he’d be just as at risk from burglary or robbery as anyone else.
Anahuac, Texas – October, the First Year
Garcia leased a large warehouse in Anahuac, a white bread community on the east side of Trinity Bay, in Chambers County, east of Houston. He rented a nearby apartment and moved his wife and children there. The warehouse had 35,000 square feet, and a pair of large roll-up doors in the back. He set all of his men to work, ferrying the best of his accumulated loot from his various storage spaces to the warehouse. Then he had them start stealing late-model cargo vans and pickup trucks with camper shells. He didn’t ask them to stop until he had 17 of them parked in the warehouse.
Using his gang members as agents, Garcia scrambled to convert as much of his cash as possible into practical tangibles. He had them buy 10 jerry cans for each van and truck, and set each vehicle up with roof racks. They each also got water jugs, canned goods, camp stoves, sleeping bags, ammunition, tools, and freeze-dried foods. They bought or stole four spare tires mounted on rims for each vehicle, and strapped them down on the roof racks. After just three days at the warehouse, he asked his cousin Simon to join him, and to bring along his eight toughest men who were bachelors.
Garcia spent many hours, talking what ifs with Tony, his most trusted lieutenant. Tony had three years of artillery experience in the army, with a tour in Iraq. That was before his Article 15s and dishonorable discharge. It was Tony who suggested putting CB radios in every vehicle. It was also Tony who recommended buying up as many cans of flat tan and flat brown spray paint as they could find. Tony was good at planning ahead.
They had everything almost ready at the warehouse by the time that the riots started in earnest. He ordered the men and their families to get used to sleeping hard-- essentially camping, inside of their vehicles in the warehouse. There were some complaints at first, but then once Houston started to burn, they thanked Ignacio for rescuing them from the chaos, and for getting them ready.
The entire gang eventually adopted the name La Fuerza. Ignacio set them on a well-calculated campaign of night-time robberies of sporting goods stores, department stores, and recreational equipment stores. They were cautious though, so none of these stores were located in Chambers County.
Once the gang was equipped for traveling and living independently, La Fuerza started stealing armored vehicles. Their first targets were members of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA), a group that Garcia’s wife found with an Internet search. The MVPA members meticulously restored jeeps, trucks, and armored vehicles. Their roster—complete with the addresses of members--was there for the taking on the Internet. The gang’s goal was acquiring wheeled armored personnel carriers. Their vehicles of choice were the Cadillac Gage V100 Commando—a four-wheeled APC, and the Alvis Saracen, a British 6-wheeled APC. Garcia sent out four-man teams in stolen cars to as far away as Oklahoma and Louisiana to steal them.
His men would arrive after midnight, batter down house doors, and force people from their beds at gunpoint. They marched them to their garages to show the gang members how to start and operate their vehicles. To give them more time to get away before an alarm was raised, the gang members killed the homeowners and their families. Over the course of three nights, they drove back to Anahuac with three Saracens and two V-100s.
Garcia was disappointed to find that most of the MVPA members had only non-firing dummy weapons mounted on their vehicles. Only one of the vehicles had a live gun. This was a semi-automatic-only Browning Model 1919. So their next targets were belt-fed machineguns, taken in storefront or home invasion robberies of Class 3 licensed full auto weapons dealers. These robberies netted six .30 caliber belt-feds, two Browning .50s, and 15 submachineguns of various types. They were surprised at the quantity of ammunition and extra magazines that the dealers had. In all, there were 232 cans of ammunition, much of it already on linked belts.
It was not until after they had the guns and Tony started reading their manuals that they realized they needed belt-linking machines to assemble belts of ammunition. They then brazenly went back to a store that they had robbed just two days before, and took both .30 and .50 caliber hand-lever linking machines, and several 20mm ammo cams containing thousands of used links.