Member of North Avenue Boys Sentenced to 20 Years On Gun Charges Related to the Shooting of a Rival Drug Gang Member’s Wife
Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz sentenced Charles Laster, a/k/a “Poppy,” age 29, of Baltimore, Maryland, today to 20 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for his role in the carjacking and shooting of the wife of a rival drug gang member, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
According to Laster’s plea agreement, from 1996 through June 2004 he was part of a drug trafficking group referred to as the North Avenue Boys, which operated a drug distribution network that was responsible for selling large quantities of heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine in the 2000 block of E. North Avenue and the 1800 block of N. Chester and Castle Streets in East Baltimore. The group also committed acts of violence against members of a rival neighborhood drug trafficking group known as the Project Boys, between November 2000 through May 28, 2001. The Project Boys were led by Charles Byers.
According to his plea agreement, Laster and other NABs, in separate vehicles, searched for Byers and members of the Project Boys. Shawn Henry and two other NABs, saw a white 1998 Jeep Cherokee, known to be used by Charles Byers arrive at the parking lot of Byers’ apartment in Baltimore County. Thinking Byers was in the Jeep, Henry approached the jeep with a handgun and found the Jeep was being driven by Byers’ wife. Byers wife was taken at gunpoint to a residence used by the NABs in the 1600 block of Normal Avenue, and was held with her hands bound while Henry and others questioned her about the whereabouts of Byers and other Project Boys. After being held for two hours, Byers wife was driven to a location near Northern High School, where she was released. As she walked away from the vehicle, Shawn Henry approached her from behind with a handgun. Ms. Byers saw the gun and pulled Henry to the ground. While they struggled, Henry shot Byers’ wife in the neck, then fired at her again and missed. The woman remained motionless until Henry returned to his vehicle and left. Byers’ wife was able to summon a nearby resident to help her, who called the police.
Byers wife described the incident to police and within an hour of the report Baltimore police officers located and stopped the white Jeep Cherokee. Corey Grant was driving the Jeep and Laster was in the front passenger seat. Laster admitted that Henry told Grant and him to take the Jeep from the house in the 1600 block of Normal Avenue, where Byers’ wife had been held, abandon it and set it on fire, in order to deflect suspicion that Byers’ wife had been kidnaped by the NABs. Byers’ wife was treated at a Baltimore hospital and recovered.
On July 2, 2004, the first indictment in this case was unsealed and most of the conspirators were arrested. Laster could not be located and remained a fugitive until March 2009, when he was arrested in West Baltimore by the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force.
In 2005, Shawn Henry, age 32, pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Corey Grant, age 31, pleaded guilty in 2005 to charges related to the kidnaping of Byers’ wife and in 2006 was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Baltimore City Police Department, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in this investigation and prosecution. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorney John F. Purcell, who prosecuted the case.