Federal authorities say they have broken up a cocaine-trafficking ring that laundered more than $270 million over 15 years in an operation that began in Michigan and branched out across the country.
The organization, known on the streets as the Black Mafia Family, had ties to the rap music industry, and its two leaders have appeared in rap videos, said Robert L. Corso, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency in Detroit.
"They were in fact just another group of thugs who brought fear, intimidation and violence to the streets of Detroit," he said.
Local and federal authorities in Michigan, California, Florida, Kentucky, Texas, Georgia, Arkansas and Mississippi arrested 23 people Friday, and two suspects remained at large, authorities said.
They face charges that include conspiracy, drug possession with intent to deliver and money laundering, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Friday in Detroit.
U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy said local and federal authorities have been after the ring since 2000 and recently were able to pull several old cases together from many different states.
Authorities said the gang dealt in "multi-kilogram" quantities of cocaine. Since 1999, authorities seized cocaine from the group in Polk County, Texas; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Kansas City, Mo.; Collin County, Texas; Crawford County, Ark.; Florissant, Mo.; St. Louis; and Woodland Hills, Calif.
The gang bought more than $1 million worth of winning lottery tickets at inflated prices "in an effort to launder the cash through legitimate means," Murphy said. They would then use the winnings to purchase homes and vehicles, hiding the fact that the true source of the money was drug sales.
Sandi Carter, assistant special agent in the Detroit office of the Internal Revenue Service, said the gang was able to find the winning Daily 4 lottery tickets through contacts in the Detroit area.
According to the indictment, the gang was led by Terry L. Flenory, 35, of Los Angeles, and his brother, Demetrius E. Flenory, 45, of Atlanta.
They started the ring in the Detroit area in the mid-1990s, and it spread to other states as it became more successful, authorities said. Members would use vehicles with hidden compartments to transport the cash from cocaine sales, authorities said.
The gang also bought and leased luxury cars and real estate through false names to conceal the source of their money, the indictment said. Corso alleged that the gang leaders used their ties to rap musicians to find luxury car brokers.
Authorities said they will seek forfeiture of 10 homes, 18 vehicles and $1.2 million that already have been confiscated. The homes are located in the Detroit and Los Angeles areas.
Murphy said local and federal authorities had touched the edges of the organization for years but had not tied their work together until recently. Investigators were able to link old cases through telephones used by the Flenory brothers, he said.
Also indicted were Neil J. Bahura, 36, of West Bloomfield; Arnold E. Boyd, 25, of Romulus; Roy C. Braddy, 32, of Canton; Cleveland E. Cato, 37, of Atlanta; Alvin Demmings II, 35, of Ecorse; Brian R. Garrett, 37, of Detroit; Jabari Hayes of Atlanta; Robert S. James of Detroit; Benjamin A. Johnson, 35, of Romulus; Chauncey M. Johnson of Detroit; Stanley Lackey Jr., 33, of Ecorse; Bruce E. Martin of Detroit; Charles T. Parson, 30, of Detroit; Derrick K. Peguese, 36, of Detroit; Rennel M. Pitts, 36, of Detroit; Karream H. Sheard, 30, of Atlanta; Benjamin H. Smith, 36, of Ecorse; Calvin L. Sparks, 44, of Ecorse; Christopher D. Triplett, 33, of Detroit; Tonesa L. Welch, 44, of Los Angeles; Gregory R. West, 52, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Harold S. Wilcox, 38, of Southfield; and Kim V. Williams, 46, of Detroit.