FIVE NEW ORLEANS GANG MEMBERS INDICTED ON DRUG AND GUN CHARGES
THOMAS HILLIARD, 22; CHRISTIAN JOHNSON, 23; ALEX LEWIS, 20; JAMES BROWN, 22; and WILLIE HILLIARD, 23; all residents of New Orleans, were indicted by a federal Grand Jury on Friday April 12, 2013 on several counts involving the distribution of cocaine base (“crack”) and the illegal possession of firearms, announced United States Attorney Dana J. Boente. The indictment was sealed until today, as federal and local law enforcement officials conducted a round-up of all defendants this morning. All five defendants are expected to make their initial appearance in federal court this afternoon at 2:00pm.
This indictment was the result of an investigation that was conducted by the newly formed NOPD Multi Agency Gang Unit, which is comprised of NOPD detectives and federal agents. During the course of this investigation all five individuals were identified as belonging to a gang known as “MMG” that distributed crack cocaine and illegally possessed firearms to further their drug trafficking activities in the Seventh Ward area of New Orleans.
According to the indictment, beginning at a time unknown and continuing until on or about June 7, 2012, in the Eastern District of Louisiana, THOMAS HILLIARD, JOHNSON, LEWIS, BROWN, and WILLIE HILLIARD did knowingly and intentionally conspire and agree to distribute two hundred-eighty grams or more of cocaine base (“crack”). During that same period, THOMAS and WILLIE HILLIARD, JOHNSON and LEWIS also conspired to possess firearms in furtherance of the drug conspiracy. Also, as part of the indictment, THOMAS HILLIARD, JOHNSON and BROWN were charged with using a communication facility to facilitate a drug crime. JOHNSON was additionally charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and WILLIE HILLIARD was charged with possession with intent to distribute a quantity of crack cocaine.
If convicted of all counts, each defendant faces a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a maximum term of life imprisonment.
The Multi Agency Gang Unit was created within the ranks of the New Orleans Police Department with significant support from other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. There are also two Assistant District Attorneys and two United States Attorneys assigned to this group to try and coordinate the prosecution of these various gang members in both federal and state courts. Like the current NOPD Homicide Division, the Gang Unit is centrally located and has jurisdiction over Orleans Parish and will be under the direction of the NOPD. It is the central bureau tasked with gathering evidence against violent gangs and all of their members that leads to the prosecution and conviction of entire violent gangs in either state or federal court on criminal conspiracy, street gang, or racketeering charges. The Gang Unit is conducting several simultaneous investigations on identified groups, which could result in state and federal prosecutions of the groups, and not only their individual members, thereby removing the violent offenders who are responsible for the majority of violent crimes committed in the neighborhoods of New Orleans and the metropolitan area.
The following agencies are part of the Multi Agency Gang Unit:
- 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); and
- United States Marshal’s Service (USMS).
U. S. Attorney Boente stated, “Thanks to the men and women who are assigned to this Unit for their hard work and dedication. Though this is the first indictment to be returned based on this Unit’s work, it certainly will not be the last. The United States Attorney’s Office is proud to be part of this joint initiative to help fight the violent crime and drug trafficking activities that continually plague several neighborhoods in this city.”
ATF Special Agent in Charge Phillip Durham said, “The indictment in this investigation is the results of our commitment as a law enforcement community to work hand in hand to identify offenders who are considered the “Worst of the Worst” and reside and operate in designated neighborhoods. We have no doubt that this strategy will continue to produce positive results in our efforts to crack down on violent gun crimes and repeat offenders in neighborhoods throughout the New Orleans metropolitan area.”
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro observed, "This represents another example of unprecedented cooperation and collaboration amongst local and Federal law enforcement agencies to aggressively identify and round up affiliated criminal confederates who are perpetrating crimes of violence on the streets of this community."
Superintendent Ronal Serpas said, "Today's indictments are proof that this initiative headed up by NOPD is aggressive, focused and effective. We are incredibly grateful for the assistance and dedication to this effort provided by our state and federal partners. Together, we are making New Orleans safer."
U. S. Attorney Boente reiterated that the indictment is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The investigation is being led by Special Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the New Orleans Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Andre’ Jones.
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