'They Chose Me'

A member of the Aryan Brotherhood provides a glimpse inside its secretive culture.

Newsweek/February 5, 2006
By Sarah Childress

Mikey Lando says he was initiated into the Aryan Brotherhood—what he calls the "crew"—back in 1984, while serving 17-and-a-half years for armed robbery in an Arizona prison. The AB, notorious for unflinching loyalty and extreme violence, "brands" its members until they die. In other words, you can quit the gang, but the gang never quits you.

Members who are released from prison are expected to keep "polishing the rock"—i.e., doing whatever they can to further the AB's agenda beyond prison walls. But Lando, 56, says he lives a quieter life in Elmira, N.Y. He no longer works, having injured his back doing maintenence jobs after he left prison. But he still hasn't lost his prison slang, or his memories of working for what many in law enforcement call the most brutal prison gang in the nation. Providing a rare glimpse inside the Brotherhood's secretive culture, Lando spoke to NEWSWEEK's Sarah Childress one evening by phone.

NEWSWEEK: I'm sorry—did I wake you up?

Mikey Lando: I've been shot at, bit, shot and stabbed awake. A phone call's no big deal.

How did you get involved in the gang?

I don't like the word 'gang.' It's ... a club, a crew. I've been a member since 1984. It's a part of survival there [in prison]. You’ve got to be part of something or you’re dead. Either the AB, or the Black Guerilla Family, or the Mexican Mafia or you’re dead. You gotta join something. I was chosen to be in the AB and I was protected by the AB, and when I got out I joined the Aryan Nations [a white supremacy group].

How did you first become a member?

I didn't choose them—they chose me. They just liked my demeanor, they liked my jokes. I was buffed up anyway, physically. They approached me, and said you’re one of us now, whether you like it or not. It's blood in, blood out.

That's an AB motto. What does it mean?

It’s so hard, because it’s ... [Sighs.] It’s just part of life. If you’re out, you’re dead. If you’re in, you survive. I’m not proud of them, of what I’ve done in my life, in prison, what I’ve had to do for them. If you don’t do for them what they want you to do then you’re dead. but I survived. And I got a color f--king TV. Out of all I’ve done in my life for the Aryan Brotherhood, I got a brand new color TV, and I’ve got my life.

What did you have to do for them?

I got hold of shanks, drugs. Heroin. Once they brought in meth. It was p2p. Of course they wanted their cut, and I gave 'em their third when I brought in my issue. It tore 'em up! They said, "Mikey, that’s your gig now." It was so strong. Of course they wanted their issue. They wanted their issue of anything. That’s how I lived for my 17 years, whether I had to hide their shanks or hide their drugs or whatever, that’s how I survived.

The AB started as a white power group—is it still that way?

Of course it’s a white power group. [But] it’s not necessarily ... I’ve often said, if a n---er had heroin, he could join the Aryan Brotherhood. But they’re so tight, if you screw up you're dead. They’d throw you off the third tier—after they set you on fire.

What's it like to be in that situation? Were you afraid?

Every time the cell door opens in the morning and you go to chow you're afraid. The only time you're not afraid is when the cell door closes. You're always afraid. ...I’m the only one that made it out okay. I straightened out my life. I think I’m the only one that has been successful in life. When I got out I was all f--ked up in my head. You’ve done so much time you’re just screwed up. But I made out okay, through family and friends. I got a lovely place to live and I don’t bother nobody.

vWhat do you think about the trial in California?

Puh! That ain’t the big deal ... Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all those guys who got indictments in California. [Laughs.] You’re never going to cripple the AB. If you kill one, there’s going to be three more in its place.

The AB's membership stays small because they're so careful about who they let in. But they get other groups to work for them.

In California, you got the AB and another club that’s even bigger, which is called the ... what‘s them little bastards' names? The Nazi Low Riders. They're an even bigger group as far as members go. They're the youngsters, and they’re just as treacherous. The ABs are a bunch of old geezers like me. They gotta prove themselves, blood in blood out. Then the NLRs drove up and started competing with them. They’ll kill each other to break rank. It’s just a nightmare. But ... [Sighs.] It's just protection. Because if you don’t belong to them, then the Mexican Mafia or the Black Guerillas will kill you if they get one chance. If you’re not picked up by the NLR or the AB, then you're dead. There’s so many people that want to get in, and like i said earlier, you don’t choose them—they choose you. You’ve got to be on your p's and q's, and once they choose you, you’re going to do anything they tell ya.

How does the AB compare with other prison groups?

They're the most treacherous. The Mexican Mafia is pretty rough too. They’re pretty tough. You're going to get stuck [stabbed] pretty quick if you cross them. It’s a different life. But the AB, they sure can reach out and touch someone. Just like that commercial [for] the telephone service. They will reach out and touch you.

How do they do that?

Supposing I’m in the slam, right, and I got pissed off at somebody, and I want to kill you. I write a kite to one of my bros and I say, 'Dust this person.' Then, boom, you’re dead. They pass messages through me—through people like me—through what we call kites. They're like messages, or visits.

What's your relationship with the AB now?

They have respect for me, and I have respect for them. Yeah, I’m a member of the Aryan Nations, the Aryan Brotherhood, but I have mellowed out. I’m old now, I’m 56 years old. I’ve done this all my life.

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