26 Indicted for Distributing Cocaine, Heroin and for Murders
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A federal indictment unsealed Thursday accuses 26 members of the Junior Black Mafia with murdering three rivals and conspiring to distribute $100 million in drugs.
″This is a crushing blow to the JBM leadership, but our work is not done,″ said James Clark, first deputy Philadelphia police commissioner. ″We want to make sure no one takes their place.″
U.S. Attorney Michael Baylson, noting that JBM sold cocaine and heroin to more than 45 street gangs, said preventing another organization from filling the void was vital.
″Community groups and citizens in every neighborhood threatened by drug dealers must reclaim their street corners to keep drug dealers on the run,″ Baylson said.
He pledged to aggressively prosecute the defendants accused of intending to distribute more than 2,200 pounds of cocaine and an undetermined amount of heroin.
Annually, he said, JBM sold at least $25 million drugs.
JBM has been linked to the organized crime family led by the now-jailed Nicodemo ″Little Nicky″ Scarfo.
Baylson said the indictment resulted from the cooperative efforts of federal, state and local officials under the Violent Traffickers Project, which was organized in 1988 to address severe drug trafficking in the Philadelphia area.
Since the project was organized, more than 500 people have been convicted.
Fifteen of the defendants were already in jail when the indictments were returned late Wednesday and five others were quickly arrested.
Six remained fugitives when the indictments were disclosed Thursday, including one of the ringleaders, James Cole, said Wayne Gilbert, special agent in charge of the FBI office here.
″Although the JBM was not a street-level drug trafficking organization, the indictment details how its territorial claims spilled out onto street corners in the form of threats, shootings and bloodshed,″ Gilbert said.
″The phrase ‘get down or lay down’ was used by JBM members to threaten other drug dealers to purchase their drugs from the JBM or suffer serious injuries or murder.″
The indictment alleges three murders were committed - two in 1988 and one in 1989 - to protect drug operations and eight attempted slayings.
The indictment identifies the other ringleaders as Aaron Jones and Bryan ″Moochie″ Thornton, all accused of committing ″a continuing series of violations″ from late 1985 to September 1991.
Jones and Cole, charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, both face a maximum sentence of six consecutive life sentences and fines of $22 million.
Thornton could receive three life terms and $10 million in fines.
The remaining 23 defendants also face life imprisonment if convicted.
The indictment charges that JBM members, as part of the conspiracy, ″would and did murder (and) attempt to murder members of rival groups (and carried) semiautomatic handguns and other firearms (and wore) bulletproof vests or body armor.″
The indictment also says the JBM members and associates laundered drug money, bought expensive cars and diamond rings and concealed their activities from law enforcement by using coded language to discuss their drug business.