Federal grand jury indicts 40 in racketeering conspiracy in SC involving SCDC inmates

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – U.S. Attorney Peter M. McCoy, Jr., announced Thursday that a federal grand jury issued a 147 superseding indictment against 40 people, including inmates, across the state involved in a racketeering conspiracy.

According to the new release, the indictment alleges a “criminal enterprise” involving inmates often by means of contraband cell phones, orchestrated murder, kidnapping, firearms distribution and an international drug operation.

The grand jury charged 17 people with conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which was designed to eliminate organized crime and prosecute racketeering activities.

According to the release, several crimes alleged in the indictment were charged under the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) statute, which makes it a crime for a person to commit any of a list of violent crimes in returned for maintaining or increasing their position within the enterprise.

Twenty-four of the 40 defendants were charged in the initial indictment for “conduct related to their alleged roles in the enterprises’ drug trafficking organization.”

“The defendants allegedly operated a violent and lucrative drug enterprise on behalf of the Insane Gangster Disciples while incarcerated,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said.  “The department is committed to investigating and prosecuting gang-related crimes no matter where they occur, including holding those accountable who engage in criminal activity while in prison.”

According to the release, the investigation by several agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Lexington County Multi-Agency Narcotics Enforcement Team and the Eleventh Circuit Solicitor’s Office began in July 2017.

The investigation reportedly looked into methamphetamine trafficking and the illegal sale of firearms and then grew and focused in on the Insane Gangster Disciples (IGD), which is a branch of nationwide gang, Folk Nation.

The indictment alleges that multiple “IGD members, while SCDC inmates and with the assistance of others on the outside, ran a drug empire from prison using contraband cell phones and other means. Further, the indictment alleges that several IGD members in prison ordered violent retaliatory measures against those they believed were providing information to law enforcement and against individuals they believed had stolen drug proceeds or owed money to the gang.  It is alleged these violent acts, to include murder and kidnapping, were often carried out by IGD members outside the jails. Additionally, the 101-page indictment alleges that to perpetuate the enterprise and to maintain and extend its power, members and associates of the gang committed, attempted to commit, and conspired to commit, additional acts such as armed robbery, extortion, arson, assault and battery, drug trafficking, money laundering, and obstruction of justice.”

The following individuals were charged in the indictment:

  • Matthew J. Ward, a/k/a “Bones,” 36, of Lexington;
  • Rebecca Martinez, 33, of Lexington;
  • Cynthia Rooks, 52, of Lexington;
  • Richard Ford, 62, of Lexington;
  • Amber Hoffman, 26, of Lexington;
  • Samuel Dexter Judy, 29, of Lexington;
  • Brian Bruce, 48, of West Columbia;
  • Montana Barefoot, 25, of Lexington;
  • John Johnson, 36, of Gaston;
  • Kelly Still, 43, of Windsor;
  • Benjamin Singleton, 46, of Lexington;
  • Kayla Mattoni, 38, of Lexington;
  • Alexia Youngblood, 38, of Lexington;
  • Clifford Kyzer, 35, of Lexington;
  • Kelly Jordan, 34, of Williamston;
  • Mark Edward Slusher, 46, of Lexington;
  • Robert Figueroa, 43, of West Columbia;
  • Tiffanie Brooks, 36, of Columbia;
  • Crystal Nicole Bright, 40, of Lexington;
  • Brittney Shae Stephens, 32, of Anderson;
  • Arian Grace Jeane, 26, of Greenville;
  • Lisa Marie Costello, 43, of Gaffney;
  • Aaron Corey Sprouse, 29, of Gaffney;
  • Matthew Edward Clark, 41, of York;
  • James Robert Peterson, a/k/a/ “Man Man,” 32, of Gaffney;
  • Edward Gary Akridge, a/k/a “G9,” a/k/a “G9 the Don,” a/k/a/ “Eddie Boss,” 28, of Greenville;
  • Aaron Michael Carrion, a/k/a “Cap G,” 28, of Lexington;
  • Heather Henderson Orrick, 33, of Greenville;
  • Virginia Ruth Ryall, 43, of Gastonia, North Carolina;
  • Lisa Marie Bolton, 32, of Dallas, North Carolina;
  • Catherine Amanda Ross, 28, of Gaffney;
  • Brandon Lee Phillips, a/k/a “Lil B,” 36, of Gaffney;
  • Billy Wayne Ruppe, 55, of Gaffney;
  • Windy Brooke George, 21, of Gaffney;
  • Juan Rodriguez, a/k/a “Fat Boy,” 40, of Woodruff;
  • Jonathan Eugene Merchant, a/k/a/ “Merck,” 27, of Laurens;
  • Joshua Lee Scott Brown, 23, of Greenville;
  • Jennifer Sorgee, 36, of Easley;
  • Alex Blake Payne, 28, of Greenville; and
  • Sally Williams Burgess, a/k/a “Cricket,” 37, of Greenville.

Ward, Peterson, Akridge and Rodriguez were serving sentences in the department of corrections at the time of the alleged crimes.

According to the release, the individuals charged in the RICO conspiracy faces the possible penalty of life in prison due to sentencing enhancements through IGD’s involvement in murders and significant drug trafficking.

The people charged with murder in aid of racketeering and kidnapping in aid of racketeering also face life in prison. Officials said there are also additional penalties for those charged with firearms crimes, drug crimes, robbery and assault.

During the investigation, law enforcement reportedly seized around 40 kilograms of methamphetamine, more than 130 firearms, as well as quantities of heroin and fentanyl.

“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,” United States Attorney McCoy said. “Neither pandemic nor prison walls will provide refuge from the full force of the federal government.”

“While the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Carolina has a long and respected history of seeking justice for victims of crime, in the past year, my office has taken an even deeper look into the violence of organized crime and drug gangs. As such, we have sought and received some of the harshest sentences of any U.S. Attorney’s Office in the country.  Be it in jail or on the outside, organized crime organizations in South Carolina will be sought out as aggressively as the law allows,” McCoy said.

“As alleged in the indictments, illegal cell phones enabled these inmates to operate a sophisticated, international drug trafficking ring from inside prison walls,” Bryan Stirling, Director of the S.C. Department of Corrections, said.  “We cannot ensure the public is safe from criminals until states are allowed to jam cell phone signals.  We need Congress to act on this pressing public safety issue and schedule a hearing on the Cellphone Jamming Reform Act.”

You can watch the full press conference below:

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