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Seen At 11: Life Imitates Art In Ruthless Crime Spree

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- A ruthless gang of criminals led a violent, two-year crime spree that spread from the city to the suburbs.

As CBS 2's Kristine Johnson reported, some of the now-convicted criminals were leading a double life as rap video artists and acted out their crimes on film.

A luxurious black Mercedes and a gritty urban neighborhood set the scene for a violent music video that hit closer to home than anyone could have imagined.

"It's the most complete case of life imitating art that I have ever seen," Special Agent Charles Mulham of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives explained.

Life imitated art in the most brutal sense, in footage of the New York video stars turned real life criminals who were caught on tape committing a terrifying crime at a local strip mall.

The video showed one of the crew members coming up on the passenger side of a vehicle and stabbing the tire with a knife to flatten it.

The gang was seen on surveillance footage committing crimes that were eerily similar to the ones that they portrayed in their video.

"Here a third member, now that the car doors have been opened, is rifling through the contents on the driver's side," Mulham explained.

Police said that the gang was responsible for nearly three dozen robberies in Westchester County and the Bronx.

"The car that was used in the video was allegedly the car that was used in the crimes," attorney Steven Brill explained.

It was a critical mistake by one of the criminals that finally helped crack the case.

"One of the defendants, as he's turning to run away, drops his cell phone onto the sidewalk," Mulham said.

That slip-up opened the door for investigators to trace the gang and their movements.

"We were also able to find out who his friends were from photos and other phone calls coming in and out of that phone," Mulham explained.

Dwayne Barret, the driver featured in the video, was sentenced to 65 years. The star Taijay "Bigs" Todd took a plea for 22 years after his conviction last year.

Todd's lawyer argued unsuccessfully to keep the video out of trial.

"There's no question in my mind that it didn't help at all and can only seal an image in the mind of a juror," Brill said.

Other members of the crew received sentences of 10 years, while the rest are still awaiting sentencing.

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