Columbia, South Carolina - A federal grand jury has returned a 147-count superseding indictment against 40 defendants across South Carolina in the largest federal racketeering conspiracy in South Carolina history.
The indictment alleges a sprawling criminal enterprise whereby inmates with the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC), often through the use of contraband cell phones, orchestrated murder, kidnapping, firearms distribution, and an international drug operation.
The grand jury returned an indictment charging the defendants with conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and several charges under the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) statute. Of the 40 defendants, 24 defendants were charged in the initial indictment in this case for conduct related to their alleged roles in the drug trafficking organization.
“The defendants allegedly operated a violent and lucrative drug enterprise on behalf of the Insane Gangster Disciples while incarcerated,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “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.”
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Peter M. McCoy Jr. of the District of South Carolina. “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.”
“This was a complex, multi-jurisdictional investigation aimed at taking down an alleged criminal operation of historic reach in our states,” said Special Agent in Charge Vince Pallozzi of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) Charlotte Field Division. “The brazen criminal acts charged fueled gun violence and drug trafficking in numerous counties and cities. To shut down this alleged operation is a major win for public safety in South Carolina.”
“This alleged vast and brazen criminal enterprise only could have been dismantled by a united and dedicated team of law enforcement officers from across this state,” said Special Agent in Charge Susan Ferensic of the FBI’s Columbia Field Office. “The FBI is proud to be part of that team. We will see this investigation through and will remain vigilant to identify and arrest all those who try to destroy our communities through violence and drug trafficking.”
The case began in July 2017 as an investigation by a number of agencies, including ATF, the Lexington County Multi-Agency Narcotics Enforcement Team, and the Eleventh Circuit Solicitor’s Office, into methamphetamine trafficking and the illegal sale of firearms. As the investigation grew, the evidence led law enforcement to focus on the Insane Gangster Disciples (IGD), a branch of the nationwide gang Folk Nation.
According to the indictment, several IGD members ran a drug empire from SCDC with the use of contraband cellphones, assistance from individuals outside of prison, and other means. Further, the indictment alleges that several incarcerated IGD members 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 defendants have been charged in the indictment for conduct related to their alleged roles in the RICO conspiracy and related crimes:
- 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;
- John Johnson, 36, of Gaston, South Carolina;
- Kelly Still, 43, of Windsor, South Carolina;
- Kelly Jordan, 34, of Williamston, South Carolina;
- Robert Figueroa, 43, and Brian Bruce, 48, of West Columbia, South Carolina;
- Tiffanie Brooks, 36, of Columbia, South Carolina;
- Juan Rodriguez, aka “Fat Boy,” 40, of Woodruff, South Carolina;
- Jonathan Eugene Merchant, aka “Merck,” 27, of Laurens, South Carolina;
- Jennifer Sorgee, 36, of Easley, South Carolina;
- Brittney Shae Stephens, 32, of Anderson, South Carolina;
- Matthew Edward Clark, 41, of York, South Carolina;
- Virginia Ruth Ryall, 43, of Gastonia, North Carolina, and,
- Lisa Marie Bolton, 32, of Dallas, North Carolina.
Of these defendants, Ward, Peterson, Akridge, and Rodriguez were serving sentences in SCDC at the time the alleged crimes were committed.
In connection with the investigation, agents seized more than 40 kilograms of methamphetamine, more than 130 firearms, and various quantities of heroin and fentanyl.
An indictment merely contains allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case was investigated by the ATF, FBI, Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, Lexington County Multi-Agency Narcotics Enforcement Team, SCDC, Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, and Richland County Sheriff’s Department. The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office, Eighth Circuit Solicitor’s Office, Eleventh Circuit Solicitor’s Office, and Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office also assisted with the case.
Trial Attorney Lisa Man and Principal Deputy Kim Dammers with the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Justin Holloway and Brandi Hinton of the District of South Carolina, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Casey Rankin with the Eleventh Circuit Solicitor’s Office are prosecuting the case.
This case is being prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.