Aug 222014
 

Jawan Fortia (via U.S. Attorney's office)

Jawan Fortia (via U.S. Attorney’s office)

Alfred Cobbins (via U.S. Attorney's office)

Alfred Cobbins (via U.S. Attorney’s office)

Jacobi Boyd (via opcso.org)

Jacobi Boyd (via opcso.org)

Eleven alleged members of a Central City gang known as the “Young Melph Mafia” conspired to distribute crack cocaine and used guns to protect their trade, according to a federal indictment made public on Friday afternoon.

The 11 men, all in their 20s, mostly grew up in the former Melpomene housing projects, and their cocaine and gun-related activities took place nearby in Central City, federal prosecutors said in a news release announcing the indictments. Despite the relative youth of its members, the Young Melph Mafia has been a problem for Sixth District police for years, as the group was blamed in an Irish Channel shootout back in October 2010, according to Uptown Messenger records.

One of the men in the indictment, 29-year-old Jeffrey Wilson, was previously indicted in late July on charges related to controlled purchases of cocaine in May. Friday’s indictment re-alleges those charges as well.

Nine of the men are already in custody; two — 22-year-old Alfred Cobbins and 21-year-old Jawan Fortia — are still at large, according to the news release.

The indictment follows other similar cases in recent years against large neighborhood street gangs. The 110ers gang’s 15 members were first indicted in May 2013 — one of whom was convicted of murder by a jury this week — and five of them were indicted again in June of this year in connection with a 2012 killing on Annunciation Street. Among other Uptown groups to be targeted, Seven alleged members of a Hollygrove street gang were indicted on drug and gun charges last October; eight alleged members of the Taliban gang in west-Carrollton were indicted on state charges last August; and 20 alleged members of the 3NG gang in Hoffman Triangle were indicted in connection with 10 murders.

For more details on the case, see the full news release below:

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite, Jr. announced that JEFFREY WILSON, age 29; JACOBI BOYD, a/k/a “CO,” age 22; ALFRED COBBINS, a/k/a “AL,” age 22; JAWAN FORTIA, a/k/a “TITTIE,” age 21; DEONTRE HILLS, a/k/a “SOULJA,” age 22; DEDRICK KEELEN, a/k/a “ROY,” age 21; RUBEN GEIGER, a/k/a “RUE,” age 21; SHAWN GRACIN, a/k/a “GUNNER,” age 21; DELWIN MCLAREN, a/k/a “POO,” age 22; BRYAN SCOTT, a/k/a “KILLER,” age 20; and DARIUS WILLIAMS, a/k/a “D-MAN,” age 22, all residents of New Orleans, were charged yesterday in a five count superseding indictment which was unsealed today. COBBINS and FORTIA remain at-large and should be considered Armed and Dangerous.

Defendant WILSON had previously been indicted in July 2014 for drug conspiracy and two cocaine distribution counts. The superseding indictment charges all defendants with conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base or “crack.” Defendants BOYD, COBBINS, FORTIA, HILLS, KEELEN, GEIGER, GRACIN, MCLAREN, SCOTT, and WILLIAMS, who are part of a Central City gang called “The Young Melph Mafia” or “YMM,” were also charged with conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes. The third count charges GRACIN and COBBINS with carrying and discharging a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. The superseding indictment also re-alleges that WILSON distributed a quantity of cocaine hydrochloride on or about May 13, 2014, and that on May 30, 2014, he distributed 28 grams or more of cocaine base or “crack.”

Based upon the ongoing investigation, these defendants, most of whom grew up in and around the former Melpomene Housing Development, engaged in high volume street level drug dealing over the course of several years. During the course of this investigation, it was also determined that the defendants connected to the Young Melph Mafia routinely carried firearms to protect themselves while engaged in distributing illegal narcotics.

If convicted of the drug conspiracy, all defendants face a minimum of five years and a maximum of forty years of incarceration, a fine of $5,000,000 and at least four years of supervised release. If convicted of the gun conspiracy, the named defendants face a maximum of twenty years of incarceration, a fine of $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release.

GRACIN and COBBINS face a minimum of ten years of incarceration to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed if convicted of carrying and discharging a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. If convicted of the cocaine hydrochloride distribution count, WILSON faces a maximum of twenty years of incarceration, a fine of $1,000,000 and at last three years of supervised release. If convicted of the cocaine base or “crack” distribution, WILSON faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of forty years of incarceration, a fine of $5,000,000 and a minimum of four years of supervised release.

“As alleged, these defendants were responsible for dealing significant quantities of narcotics in their own community, and then using firearms as a means of protecting and enforcing their drug-trafficking enterprise,” state U.S. Attorney Polite. “They all now face the prospect of spending 40 years in prison. Those who are engaging in similar criminal conduct should take note. Our federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies are working in unison to eliminate large-scale drug trafficking and the violence that often accompanies it.”

“This indictment is evidence that narcotics and firearms crimes are a dangerous mixture and will not be tolerated in our community,” said New Orleans ATF Special Agent in Charge Phillip Durham.  “These crimes inevitably lead to violence.   ATF, NOPD and our Multi-Agency Gang Unit partners will continue to combat firearms and narcotics crimes as well as gang activity in order to keep our citizens safe. ”       

“Our message in this Group Violence Reduction effort is simple — our community is demanding that the violence stop,” said Mayor Landrieu.  “With this indictment, the Multi-Agency Gang Unit has led to the indictments of 95 individuals associated with 9 groups since the fall of 2012. Through NOLA FOR LIFE, we will continue to focus on keeping our citizens safe, reclaiming our neighborhoods, and offering opportunities to those who want to make better choices.”  

“This is a signal to other gangs in New Orleans:  If you keep up the violence, we will put you away,” said Interim NOPD Police Chief Michael Harrison. “Our Homicide detectives are working closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office as well as the DA’s Office to unravel complex and very dangerous groups who terrorize our community.  Together this team collected the evidence necessary to arrest these gang members, who now face the potential of spending decades in prison.”

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite, Jr. reiterated that the superseding indictment is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendants must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the New Orleans Police Department as partners in the metro area’s Multi Agency Gang Unit. As an integral component of NOLA FOR LIFE’s Group Violence Reduction Strategy, the Multi-Agency Gang (MAG) Unit consists of a partnership with New Orleans Police Department (NOPD); Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office (DA); Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office (OPSO); Louisiana State Police (LSP); Parole Board of the Louisiana Department of Corrections; United States Attorney’s Office (USAO); Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); United States Marshal’s Service (USMS); and the United States Probation & Parole Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Valuable assistance to the investigation was provided by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Maurice Landrieu, Jr. and Edward Rivera.

Boyd was the only defendant for whom a booking photo was available Friday.

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  • topcat

    Well done, score one for the good guys