Two weeks after his father was sentenced to 15 years in prison, Joseph Duane "Little Joe" Gustafson Jr. was convicted Tuesday for his role in a family bail bonds business that prosecutors said was a front for a violent criminal gang engaged in mortgage fraud, drug trafficking and the terrorizing of north Minneapolis.
The conviction effectively ends the reign of the "Beat Down Posse," a criminal gang run by father and son that robbed, beat and stole at their direction, according to authorities.
"The Beat Down Posse is no more," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement issued Tuesday. "I couldn't be happier."
When charges were first announced in the case just over a year ago, authorities said Gustafson, 37, and his right-hand man, Troy Michael Neuberger, 40, used a simple ploy to devastating effect: entering homes under the guise of searching for a bail jumper named Hector, and then beating and robbing the people inside. Drug dealers were a preferred target during the so-called Hector missions.
Charges against Joseph Robert "Big Joe" Gustafson, 56, came a few months later.
The case was investigated for years by Minneapolis police, the state Commerce Department, the FBI and the IRS.
On Tuesday, a Hennepin County jury finished eight hours of deliberations before finding the younger Gustafson guilty on 11 counts including terroristic threats, kidnapping and multiple counts of mortgage fraud, drug trafficking and unlawful possession of a firearm. The case against him included evidence from former Beat Down Posse members.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that showed Gustafson Jr. used straw buyers and phony employment information on mortgage forms to illegally obtain mortgages to purchase four properties.
Some of the first tips that lead to criminal charges against the younger Gustafson were picked up by investigators with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, according to a Hennepin County court spokesman.
"Insurance fraud was the Achilles' heel that helped bring down one of north Minneapolis' most violent and notorious gangs," Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said in a statement.
Gustafson will be sentenced April 24. Prosecutors will seek a prison term of 20 years, according to a court spokesman.
Matt McKinney 612-217-1747