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Friday, December 13, 2013

Hollywood Casino used for drug money laundering

Short North Posse gang used casino to launder drug money, indictment says

View SlideshowChris Russell | Dispatch
The arrests of those accused of being members of the Short North Posse might lead to new charges for more-violent crimes, Police Chief Kimberley Jacobs said.
The Columbus DispatchThursday December 12, 2013
Ringleaders of a violent gang that Columbus police have battled for decades used the Hollywood Casino on the West Side to launder nearly $1 million of their drug-trafficking proceeds, a federal indictment against Short North Posse members revealed yesterday.

The indictment was unsealed as federal, state and local law-enforcement officers and agents fanned out across central Ohio and West Virginia to arrest 22 gang members on federal drug-trafficking and gun charges.

By 1 p.m., 16 were in custody. This morning, a 17th indicted person was arrested. Officers continued to search for the others as the first group had initial hearings in federal courts in Columbus and West Virginia. Bond hearings begin today.

The charges were the result of a yearlong investigation into drug dealing by the posse, a gang that operates out of the Weinland Park neighborhood and has been a thorn in the side of Columbus law enforcement since at least the 1990s.

“The idea here is to cut off the heads, and we believe that we’ve done that,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Dave DeVillers said yesterday. Investigators think the arrests will “whittle down” drug supplies in the area.

Millions of dollars were involved in the drug operation, which used Columbus as its hub and essentially was “traditional organized crime,” DeVillers said. He called the arrests phase one of an operation dubbed “Get Shorty” by federal officials.

Columbus Police Chief Kimberley Jacobs said posse members were “armed and dangerous,” but arrests had been made without incident so far. Several of those indicted are linked to more-violent crimes, she said.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said law enforcement hopes the drug arrests will help police solve other crimes.

“We think this is step one in a process to get to the violent conduct that’s going on in addition to the drug offenses,” O’Brien said.

The posse controls drug trafficking in an area of the Weinland Park neighborhood bounded by 11th, Grant and 5th avenues and N. High Street. It was called the largest and most-violent drug-dealing gang in 1995 when local and federal authorities tried to shut it down.

Federal and local officials have made multiple arrests over the years. Forty-six members and associates were indicted in 1995 by a federal grand jury. Columbus police and federal agents charged 10 posse members in 2006 after undercover agents infiltrated the gang.

Nineteen posse members were arrested in a roundup in 2010 after an 18-month Columbus police investigation.

Some of those charged yesterday had been picked up previously, and some are the “sons, daughters, uncles, aunts and brothers” of those involved in the gang in the past, DeVillers said.

Still at large yesterday afternoon was one of the ringleaders, Jermonte Fletcher, also known as “ Beans” or “Chin.” Fletcher, 31, of 5638 Wellington Woods Blvd. on the East Side, is charged with 44 counts.

His criminal record includes charges of attempted murder in 2005, pleaded down to felonious assault, and drug trafficking in 2002, both in Franklin County.

His mother, also described as a key figure, was among those arrested yesterday: Lutricia D. Fletcher-Rippy, 53, of 6394 Busch Blvd., Apt. 4, on the North Side. She pleaded guilty to charges of attempted arson in 2001 and attempted possession of drugs in 1993.

The 78-count indictment charged 21 people with illegal activity from Jan. 1, 2011, to last Thursday.

All are charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine, oxycodone, crack cocaine and marijuana. Some are charged with gun possession, money laundering and interstate travel to support racketeering enterprises.

According to the indictment, Fletcher and Byron J. Truss, 32, of 1204 Arkwood Ave. on the East Side, would purchase thousands of dollars worth of casino chips at Hollywood Casino using drug-trafficking proceeds and then exchange them later for cash.

Truss pleaded guilty in 2002 to involuntary manslaughter in connection with a 2001 drug-related shooting.

A separate indictment charged Daquan M. Tyson, 35, on eight drug and gun counts. No address was immediately available for Tyson, who was indicted separately because he also was being investigated in another case.

Both Tyson and Truss were in custody yesterday.

Of the 22 indicted, seven are women, two are from Bexley, one is from Canal Winchester, one is from East Liverpool in eastern Ohio, and three are from West Virginia. The rest are from Columbus.


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