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Inside Out

New Fed Charges Allege Prison Gang’s Street Operations Infiltrate Nonprofit Anti-Gang Efforts

Duconze Chambers
Erik Ushry
James Anthony Harried
James Bullock
Lamont Crooks
Jon Dveallon Brice
Todd Duncan

By Van Smith | Posted 4/14/2010

“I need you down here. Cause I’m down here with the brothers, Meech and all them,” Todd Andrew Duncan tells someone known as “Killa” over his cell phone on the afternoon of March 27.

“Where at?” Killa asks. Duncan replies, “Down by my job.”

Duncan’s job was as a youth counselor for Communities Organized to Improve Life Inc. (COIL), a nonprofit whose mission is to provide job-skills training and anti-violence intervention in the West Baltimore neighborhoods it serves.

But law enforcers, who were listening in on Duncan’s conversation with Killa, say Duncan is also the city-wide commander for the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) on the streets of Baltimore. The BGF, a nationwide prison gang known for its violence, radical political philosophy, and disciplined organization, has been increasingly noted in recent years for its influence outside of prison in Baltimore. Court documents say Duncan “was holding a BGF meeting at COIL,” whose office is located at 1200 W. Baltimore St., a block from the historic Hollins Market. Duncan was summoning Killa to the meeting.

Duncan, who has prior convictions for murder and attempted murder, and another COIL outreach worker, Ronald “Piper” Scott, who has no prior criminal history, were among 12 people arrested on April 12 after a federal grand jury indicted them April 7. They are charged with running a BGF-related heroin conspiracy. Scott is accused of helping Duncan sell heroin. The defendants’ alleged drug-dealing, violence, and extortion is described in a 164-page search-warrant affidavit supporting April 12 raids at 11 locations in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

The affidavit characterizes the new indictment as a follow-up to last year’s federal indictments of 25 other BGF members, including inmates, correctional officers, ex-convicts, and seemingly law-abiding citizens, many of whom have since pled guilty.

The probe into the BGF’s activities in Maryland, which court documents say started in September 2008 and has involved cooperators, physical surveillance, raids, and cell-phone monitoring, is being conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Investigations Group (DEA SIG). William Nickoles, a Baltimore Police Department detective assigned to DEA SIG, swore out the lengthy affidavit in last year’s BGF cases, as well as the current one.

COIL is not the only anti-violence nonprofit in Baltimore with BGF ties, the affidavit says. “Operation Safe Streets located in the McElderry Park and Madison East neighborhoods is controlled by the BGF, specifically Anthony Brown, a/k/a ‘Gerimo,’” according to information obtained by investigators from a confidential source. “BGF members released from prison can obtain employment from Operation Safe Streets.” No one from Operation Safe Streets was indicted in the case.

Operation Safe Streets' east-side operations are funded through the Living Classrooms Foundation. “I’ve never heard of Anthony Brown, and he has never worked for us and has nothing to do with Living Classrooms or Safe Streets,” says Living Classrooms CEO/president James Piper Bond. As for the contention that ex-inmates can get Safe Streets jobs upon their release, Bond says “it’s ridiculous.” Bond says the inclusion of Safe Streets in the case record is “disheartening” because “it’s been pretty impressive what these guys do to reduce violence in East Baltimore.”

A source of information for DEA SIG investigators ncalled Stacy Smith, COIL’s executive director, an “active BGF member,” according to the affidavit. City Paper attempted to speak with Smith by calling the cell phone number listed as hers in the affidavit. The number reached a phone message explaining that Smith had lost that phone, and to call her new number; detailed messages left for Smith on her voicemail were not returned, but Smith emailed a press release denying knowledge of any criminal activity by employees.

A Baltimore Sun article published April 13 quoted Smith as saying she was “blindsided” by the charges against Duncan and Scott. Neither that article nor Smith's press release addressed the affidavit’s contention that she’s an active BGF member.

The Sun also reported that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has suspended Safe Streets’ city funding in light of the information disclosed in the DEA SIG’s affidavit and the indictment of Duncan, Scott, and the others. The Safe Streets program, which was initially funded with U.S. Department of Justice money in 2007, has included three locations: COIL (which lost its Safe Streets funding a year later, though the city’s Board of Estimates on March 31 approved nearly $35,000 to help underwrite its operating expenses), McElderry Park (overseen by the Living Classrooms Foundation), and Cherry Hill (run by Family Health Centers of Baltimore).

The BGF's attempts to appear legitimate by engaging in efforts to control the violence on Baltimore’s streets are detailed in the DEA SIG's affidavit in the current case. One of the investigation's sources says that, despite last year's indictment of imprisoned BGF leader Eric Brown, which ceased the distribution of a self-improvement guide he published, The Black Book, the BGF has continued its efforts to gain the support and trust of civic leaders involved in trying to stem the bloodshed on Baltimore's streets.

"Brown was able to convince several community leaders," the affidavit states, "including former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Dr. Tyrone Powers, Dr. Andre Bundley, a former mayoral candidate, and Bridget Alston-Smith, who operated a nonprofit organization called Partners in Progress, of the message contained in the Black Book. These individuals began assisting Eric Brown in teaching in prison the BGF and other prison gangs, the message of the Black Book."

The affidavit adds that "Brown and other members hoped that, much in the same way BGF controlled prison violence through subtle coercion, control of the prison economy, extortion, and retaliation, members on the street could control the violence in Baltimore City. . . . [T]his would have the effect of legitimizing BGF, allow the enterprise to continue to earn money through drug trafficking, and taxing of others trafficking in drugs, as well as providing legitimate high-paying jobs to high-ranking members of the BGF funded by various government grants."

Among the 12 defendants arrested on April 12 is Kimberly McIntosh, who is alleged by the affidavit to handle BGF’s finances, manage its heroin-dealing activities, and oversee “the punishment of noncompliant BGF members and rival drug traffickers.” McIntosh, who has no prior criminal arrests, also has a legitimate job. She works for Total Health Care at its Larry Young Health Center at 1501 Division St. in West Baltimore. McIntosh’s desk there was one of the locations raided on April 12. The affidavit describes McIntosh setting up BGF drug deals and handling BGF matters while at her job.

McIntosh’s conversations with a confidential informant from within BGF’s ranks were included in DEA SIG’s affidavit, and were wide-ranging, including discussions of last year’s BGF indictments, BGF infighting, and her pen-pal relationship with a federal inmate in Colorado, James “Doc” Holiday, who in the 1960s, along with George Jackson, helped found the BGF in the California prison system.

At a BGF meeting last fall at McIntosh’s house on Homewood Avenue, adjacent to Johnson Square in East Baltimore, the informant and another BGF member were beaten as punishment for allegedly misappropriating BGF funds, the affidavit says. After the beating, McIntosh allegedly discussed the need to murder James “Johnny Five” Harris, who was suspected of killing a BGF member. Later, on March 8, McIntosh is recorded telling Duncan that Harris had been arrested and was being detained at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

McIntosh also discussed with the informant the murder of an individual referred to as “Ant,” who was believed to be a “rat,” though McIntosh disagreed. On Jan. 12, she met with the informant at Total Health Care and told him that the shooting of Brandon Walker—which had occurred earlier that day several blocks north of Total Health Care—was BGF-related. Marc Antonio Jackson has been charged with attempted murder in connection with Walker’s shooting.

McIntosh's attorney, Marc Hall of Rockville, did not return a message seeking comment.

Duncan’s knowledge of BGF-related violence is included in the affidavit, too. The Dec. 16, 2009, murder of Duncan’s cousin, Darnell “D-Nice” Gray, resulted in a drug dealer named Terry Johnson providing Duncan with heroin to sell, free of charge, since Gray had been killed by Johnson’s associates, the affidavit says. “Johnson is not charging Duncan for the heroin because he believes that as long as Duncan receives the heroin, Duncan and or his associates will not retaliate,” it reads, but then says that according to DEA-SIG’s source, “Duncan and his associates are extremely violent and will ultimately murder Johnson.”

On March 29, the affidavit continues, Duncan was on the phone with an individual known as “B,” while he was with someone named “Mike Grey.” Duncan handed the phone off to Grey, and the ensuing conversation concerned the March 15 murder of BGF member Asia Carter in Charles Village. Grey explained that, while he may not have liked Carter, who he said had helped rob the drug operation Grey had run with David “Oakie” Rich, he didn’t kill him. (Rich is scheduled to be sentenced on April 16 in federal court, having been found guilty of armed drug-dealing at a jury trial last fall.)

The Jan. 3 murder of Marcal Antwan Walton is also discussed in the affidavit. While at a southeast Baltimore bar frequented by BGF members, one of the DEA SIG’s sources overheard a conversation pinning the responsibility for Walton’s abduction and murder on BGF members, including William “Jim Dog” Rhodes. The affidavit states that Baltimore homicide detectives have identified Rhodes as a possible suspect in the case. The affidavit adds that “during the abduction, a ransom was paid for the return of the victim. The person who picked up the ransom money was Sister Kim, (McIntosh).”

The affidavit also provides evidence of BGF ties to another federal investigation. The DEA SIG’s sources provided long lists of people identified in the affidavit as tied to the BGF. One of the individuals listed is “Robert Jones, a/k/a Seattle.” In February, court records show, the FBI obtained a warrant for “saliva samples” for “DNA evidence comparison” from “Robert Eugene Jones, a/k/a ‘Seattle,’” who was suspected of “killing a federal witness.” Jones’ saliva-swabs were taken, but the affidavit supporting the warrant remains sealed, and thus the FBI’s probable cause in the case is not publicly available.

While last year's BGF indictments included corrections officers among the defendants, this year's indictment is devoid of any defendants accused of abusing public positions. The DEA SIG's affidavit, though, does hint at public corruption. Among the intercepted phone conversations is one in which BGF members discussed a corrections officer at Brockbridge Correctional Facility in Jessup who "would help them smuggle contraband into the facility." In addition, among the "active BGF members" listed by one of the investigators' sources is an unnamed "female correctional officer." The affidavit also suggests possible federal law-enforcement corruption. During the BGF meeting held at McIntosh's house last fall, the affidavit states, Duncan "advised that all members in attendance needed to be aware that he (Duncan) has a source in the FBI that provides him with information," the affidavit states. "Duncan said that if anyone learned of their meeting he would be able to determine who was leaking BGF information and would handle things accordingly."

Also listed in the affidavit as an “active BGF member” is Nathan “Bodie” Barksdale, whose nephew, Dante Barksdale, works for Safe Streets on the east side. Nathan Barksdale is a legendary Baltimore gangster whose exploits have become the subject of a film produced and directed by Kenneth Antonio “Bird” Jackson, also famous for his days in the drug game. Reached by phone at the number provided in the affidavit, Barksdale says, “Hell, no!” to the contention that he’s a BGF member. “I ain’t no motherfuckin’ member,” he says. “When I was in prison, I mean, yeah—but that was 20 years ago. I’m a filmmaker. I’m pushing 50, man. I’m too old for that. That’s for teenagers.”

Barksdale is not one of the 12 charged in the new indictment. Other than Duncan, Scott, and McIntosh, the remaining defendants are: Lamont Crooks, who is currently on supervised release after a 46-month sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm; Eric Seantae "E" Ushry, who has past convictions for drug-dealing; Duconze Chambers, previously convicted for assault with intent to murder and firearms charges; Davon "Ben" McFadden, who also has drug-dealing and gun convictions in his past; James "Smiley" Harried, with three prior drug-dealing convictions; Jon Devallon "Tiger" Brice, whose past includes multiple drug convictions; Devon Lamont "Taterman" Crawford, previously convicted of second-degree assault; Jermain "Dirty Rice" Davis, with prior convictions for drug-dealing; Earl Moore; and Sherice Foster, who worked at the Charles Village Safeway, where investigators say she used the Safeway phone to facilitate drug-dealing activity.

The defendants could not be reached for comment.

BGF 2010 Warrant

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Tags: shadow economy, BGF, eric brown

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