Suspected gang members at Federal Court in Charlotte
North Carolina’s largest ever crackdown on street gangs led to arrests in Charlotte and four states Thursday, with dozens of alleged members of United Blood Nation charged with a vast conspiracy of murders, assaults and other violent crimes.
In all, 83 people, all believed to be part of a UBN wing known as “Nine Trey Gangsters” wing, were named in the federal indictments, including nearly 30 who were already jailed for other crimes. Ten suspects remained on the run Thursday afternoon. Five were being hunted in Charlotte. One was as far away as Miami, the FBI said.
In an update released Friday morning, the FBI said it had located two of the missing suspects in Charlotte, and a third surrendered to police in Columbia, South Carolina.
Authorities said 600 law enforcement officers from more than a dozen agencies were involved in the roundup, a show of force from Florida to New York that federal prosecutors later attributed to the Trump administration’s intensified effort to fight the gangs by “unleashing all the law at our disposal.”
Of the 50 arrests made Thursday, half were in Charlotte, with another 14 coming in largely rural Cleveland County. There, the small town of Shelby has become a surprisingly strong outpost for gang activity, authorities say.
Those accused also include some of UBN’s “godfathers,” also known as OGs or “original gangsters, who direct gang operations from their cells in the New York prison system, prosecutors said. That’s where the gang formed in the early 1990s before spreading south through other prisons and the drug trade.
A sweeping 162-page indictment outlines the criminal network, connecting a web of seemingly unrelated crimes across the Charlotte region that go back at least to 2010. Those include multiple murders, racketeering, firearms trafficking, robbery and bank fraud. Gang members are tied to at least six killings and multiple shootings.
In North Carolina, the reach of the gang extends from small North Carolina towns like Concord and Shelby to the college mecca of Chapel Hill. UBN remains a powerful force in many of the state prisons. In one 2016 example, UBN members smuggled cellphones, narcotics, marijuana and razor blades into the Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City, authorities say.
The indictment also details gang efforts to traffic heroin, cocaine, narcotics and firearms. In a new development, many of named in the indictment were charged with white-collar crimes such as identity theft and credit card fraud – a sign that gang members are become more sophisticated and diversified, authorities said.
The FBI, joined by state and local law enforcement agents, began rounding up the suspected gang members early Thursday, and vans filled with the prisoners began arriving at the federal courthouse in Charlotte before 10 a.m.
Seventy-three of those named in the indictments were from North Carolina, with smaller groups rounded up or hunted in South Carolina, New York and Florida.
In all, FBI officials said 25 were arrested Thursday in Charlotte; 14 came from Cleveland County, four in Anson County, one in Gaston County and five were picked up in eastern North Carolina. In South Carolina, two were arrested in Myrtle Beach and one in Columbia.
At least one arrest took place in Florida, and the indictment cites crimes committed in the cities of Pensacola, Pace and Gulf Breeze.
Two dozen of the newly indicted were already incarcerated in North Carolina; three were behind bars in New York.
United Blood Nation, an East Coast offshoot of the better-known Bloods gangs of California, has grown into one the largest and most active gangs in Charlotte and has been a frequent target of law enforcement. The gang focuses much of its activity in northwest parts of the city, said John Strong, FBI director for North Carolina.
The Shelby Star reported Thursday that 26 of the people captured in the roundup were from Cleveland County, and that a large police presence was focused on the Patterson Springs community, south of Shelby.
A 2015 indictment named 12 Charlotte members in connection with three murders, including the October 2014 killings of Doug and Debbie London, who were shot down in their home to keep them from testifying against the UBN members who tried to rob their mattress store.
U.S. Attorney Jill Rose of Charlotte said none of those gang members helped with the investigation that led to Thursday’s arrest. “This tells me that this is a gang that will use its power to intimidate people,” she said. “It tell me that this is a gang that will kill people if they cooperate.”
Now, a new list of defendants, with gang names ranging from “Hardbody” and “Lady Rude,” to “Kutthroat” and “Lady Gunz” have been accused of a total of 69 crimes, including six killings. They are:
▪ The May 16, 2010 shooting death of Devon Clement.
▪ The Nov. 27, 2015 killing of Chris Odoms in Cleveland County.
▪ The Jan. 26, 2016 murder of Jimmy Ray Daniels in Halifax County, and the wounding of two others.
▪ The Feb. 19, 2016 of Cheeontah Howard at a Gastonia motel.
▪ The July, 2016 killing of Malik Brown in Chapel Hill.
▪ The April 2016 killing of Donnell Murray in Shelby.
Prosecutors say the dead include robbery victims, rival gang members and the victims of UBN disputes. The indictment says Lamonte “Murda Moo” Lloyd and Tyquan “Savage” Powell, committed the killings of Howard and Daniels early last year.
The gang, founded on Riker’s Island in 1993, has a military-like set up based on 31 rules of conduct, with each member having a rank, and an authority centralized in New York and that state’s prison system.
The gang has rules of conduct, codes and colors of communication, and membership requirements that include a “beat in,” during which perspective members are beaten by the gang for 31 seconds.
Though the investigation that led to Thursday’s arrest has been years in the making, the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Session used a Thursday afternoon press conference to underscore that a new era of law and order was now underway.
Former Acting Attorney General Dana Boente told reporters that a newly “resolute” U.S. Department of Justice was working “to reclaim the streets.”
Local and federal authorities have launched crackdowns against UBN and other gangs, including the killings of the Londons, dating back for more than five years.
But Rose, a lifelong federal prosecutor who was appointed U.S. Attorney in Charlotte under President Barack Obama, said the Trump administration’s tougher sentencing and greater commitment of resources, have strengthened the fight against violent gangs.
She used the occasion to warn gangs that the battle isn’t over.
“We have come for you and we will keep coming for you,” she said. “We’re just getting started.”