Writer’s Note: Portfolio: Otoni Group was published originally as a Subscriber Exclusive on January 9, 2019.
In over a hundred years of activity, the syndicate known as the Otoni Group has become one of the most enduring criminal organizations in Human space. From what leading researchers have been able to piece together, they have slowly and methodically expanded their operations to amass great wealth and substantial influence. This powerful and elusive multi-system syndicate has been implicated in almost every kind of illegal enterprise, from selling forged reg-tags to low-level outlaws to orchestrating the high-profile assassinations of corrupt politicians and criminal rivals.
Recently, the Journal of Imperial Economics came under fire for placing the Otoni Group on their list of the UEE’s most powerful corporations. Their experts conservatively estimated that the group’s annual revenues put them alongside some of the empire’s most notable and respected companies. While the extent of their political influence is unknown, government watchdog group Responsible Citizens United released a report in 2912 linking several elected officials and lobbyists to suspected Otoni Group members and business entities. With a massive untaxed bankroll that funds wide-ranging criminal activity and the ability to apply political pressure when necessary, it’s of little wonder that the Otoni Group has managed to remain in operation for as long as it has.
Editor’s Note: This portfolio is not intended to glorify or validate the Otoni Group. Instead, it’s meant as a sober assessment of their abilities and influence on the UEE. Only by understanding how such a massively successful criminal organization came to be can we determine how to dismantle it and prevent similar groups from being created in their mold.
As with many underworld entities, various stories have circulated over the years about the origin of the Otoni Group. However, the Advocacy contends that the following timeline is most likely closest to the truth:
The group’s origins can be traced to Croshaw in the mid-29th century. More specifically, to one of Angeli’s most notorious city-run social houses, where three orphans came together to provide each other protection against the various gangs that operated within the facility. Arthur Mendies, Lauda Viscaso, and Tio Quast bonded out of a necessity to survive and quickly realized that they had complementary skills and dispositions that made life within the facility more manageable.
Arthur Mendies landed in Angeli’s social welfare system following his mother’s arrest and conviction for a litany of digital theft charges that resulted in millions of credits being transferred out of the bank accounts of unsuspecting victims. Mentored by his mother, Mendies proved to be technologically proficient with a knack for discreetly accessing a wide range of systems. Meanwhile, his aptitude for forgery and counterfeiting proved valuable in smuggling contraband past the social house’s security scanners. Mendies honed his skills over the years to aid the Otoni Group in digging up dirt on enemies, smuggling vast amounts of goods between systems, and laundering their growing wealth through legitimate operations.
Lauda Viscaso was abandoned as an infant and left adrift in a Freelancer outside Angeli. When local officials failed to identify her parents or next of kin, she entered the social services system and was adopted by an extremely religious family. At eleven, she ran away from their devout way of life. Though captured shortly thereafter, she refused to stay with them and kicked off an unending cycle of attempted escapes that eventually frustrated the family and landed her in social housing. Charismatic, intelligent, and fearless, Viscaso made friends wherever she went but trusted no one until she met Mendies and Quast. Her quick tongue, sharp mind, and high emotional intelligence made her a born criminal fixer who knew exactly what to say, or not, at the right time. Her ability to build working relationships with various outlaws and organizations was essential to the Otoni Group’s survival and eventual expansion.
Tio Quast had a relatively normal and stable childhood compared to his compatriots. Born to a middle-class family, he landed a coveted scholarship to an elite Angeli private school thanks to his sataball skills. His fortunes took a turn for the worse when his parents and siblings perished after a catastrophic shield malfunction when their ship entered Angeli’s atmosphere. Orphaned and alone, Quast relied on his physical prowess to survive the rough and tumble social homes and soon discovered that he was a born brawler. He became the Otoni Group’s chief enforcer and most feared member of the founding triumvirate.
Released onto Angeli’s streets at sixteen, the trio continued their successful allegiance. Their dealings with the different gangs within the social house taught them the essential skills to make their way through the vast underworld of the city. They began by running small-time criminal schemes to eke out an existence, but after building up a network of contacts, they discussed ways to enhance their position without angering established gangs. They decided to set themselves up as a freelance service agency that catered exclusively to criminals. Whether it was producing counterfeit IDs, procuring black market items, or acting as freelance hitters, the trio proved that they could deliver without questions or established loyalties. They quickly garnered a reputation for being patient, persistent, intelligent, and vicious. No one could have expected just how far those qualities would take them.
Divide and Conquer
The 2840s proved to be a particularly tumultuous time for Angeli’s underworld and Mendies, Viscaso, and Quast soon found themselves in the thick of it. The destruction of the Curved Blade syndicate splintered the established criminal dynasty into thousands of gangs vying for control. This sprawling criminal landscape provided the three friends with a constantly shifting and endless supply of clients.
With growing power and influence (and no longer afraid to upset a single, powerful criminal entity) Mendies, Viscaso, and Quast rebranded themselves as the Otoni Group – the name taken from the social house where they all met. Their powerplay for Angeli’s underworld was cautious and carefully orchestrated. The group masterfully played warring gangs against each other to elevate themselves out of the slums and ensure that they never went back. To avoid attention from law enforcement officials, they carefully screened their clients and skillfully hid their illegal activities behind a myriad of shell companies. Soon the scope of their operations included drug production, smuggling, and even Human trafficking.
Local law enforcement was so distracted by the underworld’s seemingly unending bloodshed that they deprioritized any ongoing investigation into the Otoni Group. By the time they realized that the Otoni’s were becoming the planet’s next major power player, it was too late. The group had expertly covered their tracks. Old leads led to dead ends and informants could no longer be found. The Otoni Group took control of Angeli and set their sights on the wider Croshaw system.
The Otoni Group slowly and methodically extended their control of Croshaw’s underworld over the 2850s. By the late 2800s, the first reports of them appeared in a new system — Ferron. It is believed that this was the location of their first interstellar expansion, but it would be far from their last. The Otoni Group developed and refined a process for acquiring new territory. After first sending in scouts to assess the local criminal players, they would then quietly insert themselves into the black market, trading off their established reputation and eventually establishing a new ‘franchise’ of the Otoni Group permanently in-system.
This specific leadership hierarchy allowed each branch of the Otoni Group to coordinate collectively, but operate independently. A methodology that proved extremely effective for eluding law enforcement. Anytime that the Advocacy attempted to crack down on the local leadership in one system, the trail would die at the jump points and the rest of the organization continued to survive. And in some instances, re-establishing a local chapter after only a short downtime.
Structured more like a corporation than a gang, crime is a professional occupation for the Otoni Group. They can be every bit as deadly as their local counterparts, but they just factor in risk assessment and financial impact when making decisions about Human lives. They are generally reticent to wreak violence as it always attracts the most attention, but if havoc and death provide them with a win, they will not hesitate to pull the trigger.
Their operatives are renowned for being overwhelmingly cold and calculating. They are almost completely indifferent when talking about their business, even in matters of life and death. A lack of standardized uniforms or colors makes them difficult to identify. They tend to favor more formal attire that not only signifies their status, but also their professionalism.
Of the original founding members, only Arthur Mendies is still alive. Viscaso passed away from natural causes, and Quast died from complications during routine surgery. Even though their names and “alleged” actions became widely-known in law enforcement circles, none of them were ever successfully indicted on criminal charges or spent any time in prison. Some considered this fact more proof of just how much political influence the Otoni Group wields.
Today, the Otoni Group remains a major criminal player in numerous systems across the UEE. Attempts by the Advocacy and local law enforcement to eradicate or limit their influence, particularly in Croshaw and Stanton, have failed. Even with two of their three founding members dead, and Mendies rumored to be retired, many experts consider the Otoni Group to be more powerful than ever.
From their calculated rise to power and careful expansion to the installation of a hierarchy that rewarded ambition but ensured that local issues wouldn’t derail the entire institution, the Otoni Group is a modern business success story. Unfortunately, they operate on the wrong side of the law, and the UEE would be a safer place if they ceased to exist.