Feds indict gang members who ‘used contraband cellphones to orchestrate kidnappings, drive-by shootings and murders of people who threatened their $50 million-a-year drug trafficking operation’, from prison
Federal prosecutors indicted 40 suspected members of Insane Gangster Disciples gang in South Carolina’s largest-ever racketeering conspiracy case
Four of the suspects are accused of orchestrating murders, kidnappings and drive-by shootings, and running $50million-a-year drug empire from prison
Prosecutors say defendants while behind bars relied on contraband cellphones to order hits and coordinate methamphetamine trafficking
Two of the four alleged masterminds, James Robert Peterson, 32, aka ‘Man Man,’ and Juan ‘Fat Boy’ Rodriguez, 40, are currently incarcerated in South Carolina prisons
Peterson is serving a 30-year sentence for a 2005 murder and aggravated assault, is accused of ordering killing of Michelle Dodge
Another suspect, Edward Gary Akridge, 28, aka ‘G9 the Don,’ is serving time in the Greenville County Detention Center
36-year-old Matthew J. Ward, aka ‘Bones,’ is in a federal prison
Dodge, 27, was kidnapped, waterboarded and shot in the back of the head in July 2019 because Peterson suspected her of being a police informant
The various defendants are charged under federal racketeering law
If convicted, most of the defendants could face life in prison
Forty suspected gang members in South Carolina have been indicted in connection with the largest federal racketeering conspiracy case in the state’s history with inmates accused of orchestrating hits and running a $50million-a-year drug empire from behind bars by using contraband cellphones.
The 147 counts listed in the 101-page indictment range from drug and firearm charges to those related to a murder, a kidnapping and two drive-by shootings.
At a news conference held Thursday outside of the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, prosecutors said the crimes occurred between 2017 and earlier this year.
All defendants, which include both men and women, are alleged to be members of or affiliated with a gang known as the ‘Insane Gangster Disciples’, a branch of a nationwide group called Folk Nation, that has been operating in South Carolina for years
Federal prosecutors say the purpose of the gang was to make money prosper through crime – drug trafficking, kidnapping and smuggling prison contraband and other means. They grabbed and retained power using threats and violence.
The gang also is accused of aiming to establish safe houses and provide money for members dealing with the police or incarceration.
Authorities said they seized about 40 kilograms of methamphetamine estimated at a $40million value, as well as some heroin and fentanyl. Police also seized more than 130 firearms during arrests of the defendants, though none of the guns were taken from prisons.
According to the authorities, four men who were locked up in South Carolina correctional facilities during the time of the crimes were instrumental in operating the international drug trafficking operation and other activities outlined in the indictment.
Two of the four alleged masterminds, James Robert Peterson, 32, aka ‘Man Man,’ and Juan ‘Fat Boy’ Rodriguez, 40, are currently incarcerated in South Carolina prisons. Peterson is serving a 30-year sentence for a 2005 murder and aggravated assault.
Another suspect, Edward Gary Akridge, 28, also known as ‘G9 the Don,’ is in the Greenville County Detention Center and the fourth, 36-year-old Matthew J. Ward, dubbed ‘Bones,’ is in a federal prison.
‘Contraband cell phones remain the main tool of murder and mayhem and it affects this entire state,’ Assistant US Attorney Lance Crick said at Thursday’s press conference.
Among the accusations detailed in the indictment are drug sales and disputes over drug debts, multiple gunpoint confrontations, one defendant leading police on a high-speed chase, one defendant bonding another out of jail in exchange for heroin and a gun, and the murder of an inmate named Kendrick Hoover inside a state prison on gang orders.
The indictment also lays out how several of the defendants are alleged to have kidnapped and killed Michelle Dodge because they suspected the 27-year-old woman was an informant for law enforcement.
According to the indictment, in July 2019, defendants Aaron Carrion and Aaron Sprouse, acting on James Peterson’s orders, waterboarded Dodge and shot her in the foot before driving her in the trunk of a car to a separate location, where one shot her in the back of the head.
Holloway declined to say Thursday whether Dodge was actually a police informant.
In January 2020, defendant Edward Akridge allegedly ordered a drive-by shooting in Piedmont as payback for an $11,000 drug theft, which resulted in the killing of Jeffrey Mitchell Snipes.
The indictment also provides details on organizational elements of the gang, from imposing fines and written essays on members who violated rules to the regular meetings where gang finances and disciplinary beatings of members were discussed.
The indictment notes that most members of the Disciples, known as ‘Gs,’ are white, unlike most Folk Nation-aligned gangs.
Authorities say Thursday’s indictments are continued evidence that federal laws need to be changed to allow states to jam cellphone signals in prisons and render contraband phones useless.
The announcement follows state charges announced last week against 29 inmates in a prison riot from 2018 considered the deadliest across the country in a quarter-century.
‘To anyone who would try to harm the people of South Carolina with violence, intimidation or extortion, we are coming after you wherever you are,’ said U.S. Attorney for South Carolina Peter McCoy. ‘Neither pandemic nor prison walls will provide refuge.’
Corrections chief Bryan Stirling blamed that riot, at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, in part on illegal cellphones, arguing that the phones allow men behind bars to communicate unfettered with the outside world and one anther, in some cases committing crimes.
On Thursday, Stirling called on Congress to hold a hearing on the issue, as federal prisons can jam cell signals, but states cannot due to Federal Communications Commission regulations.
The Department of Corrections has confiscated more than 4,000 contraband phones this year and inmates frequently use the phones to stalk and harass victims as well as extort family members, authorities said.
The various defendants are charged under federal racketeering law.
If convicted, most of the defendants could face life in prison.
The investigations which involved dozens of investigators from multiple federal, state and local agencies, and took more than three years, will be ongoing for the foreseeable future, Holloway said.
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