Two Bounty Hunter Gang Members Plead Guilty to Racketeering and Firearms Charges
NORFOLK, Va. – Arous John Phillips, a/k/a AJ, 23, and Eric Drandell Ward, a/k/a Lil E, 29, both of Portsmouth, Va., pled guilty today in Norfolk federal court to one count of racketeering and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, made the announcement after Phillips and Ward entered their guilty pleas before United States District Judge Jerome B. Friedman. Phillips will be sentenced on October 18, 2010 and Ward will be sentenced on October 12, 2010. Both are facing a maximum penalty of life in prison.
According to court documents, the racketeering count outlines Phillips’ and Ward’s involvement in various criminal acts as gang members of the Bounty Hunter Bloods or Nine Tech Gangsters. On August 25, 2006 Phillips and others participated in the murder of Darius Powell whom they suspected had robbed a fellow gang member at a dice game in the Craddock area of Portsmouth. Phillips and three others went looking for Powell to retaliate. When they found him, two of Phillips’ co-conspirators approached Powell, robbed him and then beat him severely on the head with a sawed-off shotgun and a handgun. Powell was rushed to the hospital and died shortly thereafter from major head trauma. The sawed-off shotgun belonged to Phillips. In addition, Phillips was involved in the attempted murder of a witness to Powell’s murder; the beating and robbery of some rival Crip gang members; and the robbery of a Getty Mart in Portsmouth.
On June 12, 2007, Ward was involved in setting up a home invasion and robbery of a female victim in Chesapeake. Ward was interested in renting the victim’s home. During a walk-thru of the residence, he spotted a safe in the master bedroom. Ward relayed this information to his fellow gang members and as a result several of Ward’s fellow gang members drove to the victim’s residence. They knocked on the door and when the victim answered, they forced their way into the residence. At gunpoint, they demanded from the victim money located in the safe. The victim began to scream and was hit several times on the head with the firearm. The victim’s screams came to the attention of the neighbors. Fearing apprehension, the gang members fled the scene. In their haste to flee, they accidently dropped the firearm in the victim’s front yard. The firearm was recovered by the Chesapeake Police.
This case was investigated by the FBI, the Portsmouth, Suffolk and Chesapeake Police Departments, and the Virginia State Police. Assistant United States Attorneys William Muhr and Melissa O’Boyle prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.uspci.uscourts.gov.