Justice Department Announces Charges in Connection with Foiled Plot to Assassinate U.S. Citizen in New York City
The 37th and final defendant charged as part of the case against members and associates of the Simon City Royals gang – a gang aligned with the Gangster Disciples – pleaded guilty today to racketeering (RICO) conspiracy.
“The Simon City Royals terrorized Mississippi prisons and communities for far too long,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “These convictions underscore the Justice Department’s dedication to disrupting and dismantling violent criminal enterprises, regardless of where they operate.”
“Our communities have every right to expect that violent criminal gangs will be held to account and incarcerated for their crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner for the Northern District of Mississippi. “Thanks to the extraordinary work of our law enforcement partners and career federal prosecutors led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Stringfellow, 37 members of the Simon City Royals, a violent gang acting outside as well as inside our prisons as a criminal enterprise, have been arrested, incarcerated, or are currently awaiting sentencing. There will be no compromise in protecting our citizens, and every criminal gang operating in the Northern District of Mississippi can consider itself to be on notice.”
According to court documents, the Simon City Royals were a violent prison gang operating primarily in the Mississippi Department of Corrections, but with members and associates acting on their behalf outside of prison throughout Mississippi, Louisiana, and elsewhere. Through an alliance with the violent Gangster Disciples gang and with a sophisticated structure, the Simon City Royals engaged in a host of criminal activities, including murder, attempted murder, assault, kidnapping, robbery, extortion, witness tampering, money laundering, interstate travel in aid of racketeering, large-scale drug trafficking, and fraud.
“These convictions mean that the Simon City Royals’ time is over,” said Special Agent in Charge Joshua Jackson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) New Orleans. “Protecting the safety of our communities is one of the cornerstones of what our agency seeks to accomplish every day. To anyone damaging our streets with gun violence and drugs – law enforcement is here. No matter how long it takes, no matter if you are on the streets or in prison, we will bring the full weight of the federal government down on the violent gangs terrorizing our communities, neighborhoods, and institutions.”
“This investigation demonstrates the significant impact multiple agencies can achieve when they work together,” said Special Agent in Charge Brad L. Byerley of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New Orleans Division. “We are committed to continuing our collaboration with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute those who threaten our communities through criminal activities. This final conviction should send a clear message to others engaged in organized crime that this type of activity will not be tolerated.”
The Simon City Royals were responsible for the brutal murder of a prison inmate in 2018, when a Simon City Royals leader issued a “kill on sight” order, directing any gang member who encountered the targeted inmate to murder him. In January 2018, Dillon Heffker and Robert Williams acted on the order, stabbing the victim dozens of times with improvised prison knives. Leaders of the Simon City Royals rewarded Heffker and Williams for the murder by arranging for hundreds of dollars to be directed to their prison commissary accounts.
“The U.S. Marshals Service, along with our federal, state, and local partners, strive daily to protect our communities from violent criminal organizations such as the Simon City Royals,” said U.S. Marshal Daniel R. McKittrick for the Northern District of Mississippi. “The final guilty plea ended a reign of terror for 37 career criminals, who were responsible for a tremendous amount of criminal activity in our local communities.”
“The Secret Service is committed to investigating and pursuing those who aim to exploit our nation’s financial systems in order to further a criminal enterprise,” said Resident Agent in Charge Kyle Smith of the U.S. Secret Service’s Jackson Resident Office. “Thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement partners, a violent gang was dismantled and the individuals involved can now be held responsible for their crimes.”
Simon City Royals were also responsible for the savage kidnapping and torture of a former member for perceived violations of the gang’s code of conduct. In 2015, a member of the Simon City Royals kidnapped the victim at knifepoint and forced him into a hotel room. There, Simon City Royals members and associates tied the victim to a chair, interrogated him, tortured him, and burned off his Simon City Royals tattoo.
"These convictions demonstrate the steadfast commitment of the FBI and our law enforcement partners to protecting the public from violent gangs that terrorize and poison our communities,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “As a result of our collective efforts, this destructive criminal enterprise has been dismantled and the members who have been operating both in and out of the prison system are being held accountable.”
In addition, the Simon City Royals engaged in widespread drug trafficking, including smuggling large quantities of methamphetamine, marijuana and synthetic marijuana, heroin, and benzodiazepines into dozens of Mississippi state prison facilities. The gang distributed these dangerous substances, including nearly 100% pure crystal methamphetamine, to inmates throughout the prison system.
Below are the defendants and the charges to which they pleaded guilty:
A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Secret Service, FBI Jackson Field Office, Mississippi Department of Corrections, and dozens of local law enforcement agencies across multiple states investigated the cases. The Tupelo Police Department, Marshall County Sheriff's Department, Benton County Sheriff's Department, and Tippah County Sheriff’s Department provided valuable assistance.
Trial Attorney Ben Tonkin of the Criminal Division’s Violent Crime and Racketeering Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stringfellow for the Northern District of Mississippi are prosecuting the cases, with valuable assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Annette Williams for the Southern District of Mississippi.