A federal grand jury on December 10 returned a 147-count indictment against 40 defendants in South Carolina in the most significant federal racketeering conspiracy in the history of South Carolina.
The federal indictment alleges a vast criminal enterprise that involved inmates in the South Carolina Department of Corrections using illegal cell phones to orchestrate many federal crimes, including murder, kidnapping, firearms distribution, and an international drug operation.
Defendants Charged Under the RICO Act
The federal grand jury returned the indictment charging the defendants with conspiracy under the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act. Several also were charged under the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) law. Of the 40 alleged criminals, 24 have been arrested for conduct related to their drug trafficking organization’s roles.
The dozens of defendants allegedly ran a lucrative and violent drug trade for the Insane Gangster Disciples while in prison, according to Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt, who works in DOJ’s criminal division. The DOJ is committed to investigating and prosecution of all gang-related crimes, no matter where they happen. This includes prosecuting those who engage in violent criminal activity while in federal prison.
US Attorney Vows To Go After Violent Criminals Anywhere
US Attorney Peter McCoy of the District of South Carolina stated that anyone who intends to harm South Carolinians with violence or extortion, the US government will go after them wherever they are.
McCoy added that prison walls and the pandemic would not provide refuge from the federal government as it works to bring violent criminals to justice. He noted that his office has sought and received some of the harshest sentences of any US Attorney’s office in the nation.
Brazen Criminal Acts Alleged, Including Gun Violence and Drug Trafficking
The federal case began in 2017 when several agencies started a criminal investigation and included ATF, the Lexington County Multi-Agency Narcotics Enforcement Team, and the Eleventh Circuit Solicitor’s Office. The investigation involved looking into methamphetamine drug trafficking and illegal firearms sales. As the federal investigation got more significant, the evidence led federal agents to concentrate on the Insane Gangster Disciples (IGD), part of the national gang Folk Nation.
The federal indictment states that several members of the Insane Gangster Disciples ran a drug operation from South Carolina prisons with illegal cellphones. They also received assistance from people outside of state prisons. Additionally, the indictment states that several IGD members in prison ordered violent actions against those they thought were given information to federal agents and against people they thought had stolen drug profits or owed them money.
The indictment alleges the violent acts committed included murder and kidnapping. The actions often were performed by IGD members who were not in prison. The 101-page indictment also asserts that to run the operation and increase its power, members and associates tried to commit additional crimes, including extortion, arson, armed robbery, money laundering, assault, and battery obstruction of justice.
Some of the defendants in the RICO conspiracy and related crimes are:
- Matthew J. Ward, aka “Bones,” 36; Rebecca Martinez, 33; Cynthia Rooks, 52; Richard Ford, 62; Amber Hoffman, 26; Samuel Dexter Judy, 29; Montana Barefoot, 25; Benjamin Singleton, 46; Kayla Mattoni, 38; Alexia Youngblood, 38; Clifford Kyzer, 35; Mark Edward Slusher, 46; Aaron Michael Carrion, aka “Cap G,” 28; and Crystal Nicole Bright, 40, all of Lexington, South Carolina;
- Lisa Marie Costello, 43; Aaron Corey Sprouse, 29; James Robert Peterson, aka “Man Man,” 32; Catherine Amanda Ross, 28; Brandon Lee Phillips, aka “Lil B,” 36; Billy Wayne Ruppe, 55; and Windy Brooke George, 21, all of Gaffney, South Carolina;
- Arian Grace Jeane, 26; Heather Henderson Orrick, 33; Joshua Lee Scott Brown, 23; Alex Blake Payne, 28; Sally Williams Burgess, aka “Cricket,” 37; and Edward Gary Akridge, aka “G9,” “G9 the Don,” and “Eddie Boss,” 28, all of Greenville, South Carolina;
As part of the federal investigation, federal agents seized 40 kilograms of methamphetamine, more than 100 firearms, and large quantities of fentanyl and heroin.
Several Defendants Allegedly Kidnapped and Murdered a Suspected Informant
The federal indictment also describes how several defendants allegedly kidnapped and murdered Michelle Dodge because they believed the woman was an informant for law enforcement.
The indictment reads that defendants Aaron Carrion and Aaron Sprouse, acting on the orders of James Peterson, waterboarded the woman and shot her in the foot. Then they allegedly drove her in the trunk of a car to another location, where they shot her in the head.
Also, defendant Edward Akridge allegedly ordered a drive-by shooting as retaliation for an $11,000 drug theft, which led to the death of Jeffrey Snipes.
The extended federal indictment also offers organizational details about the gang, from handing out fines and requiring written essays from members who broke the rules. There also were regular gang meetings that involved financial discussions and disciplinary beatings of wayward members.
Federal agents noted that the indictments are more evidence that federal laws should be changed to let states jam cellphone signals in prisons so that illegal cellphones inside prison walls are useless.
- 40 Charged in Largest Federal Racketeering Conspiracy in South Carolina History. Accessed at https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/40-charged-largest-federal-racketeering-conspiracy-south-carolina-history
- Forty Jailed in South Carolina Orchestrated Kidnapping, Driveby Shootings, and Murder. Accessed at https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9043501/Forty-jailed-South-Carolina-gangsters-orchestrated-kidnapping-drive-shootings-murder.html