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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 12, 2021

OCDETF Operation “Tiny Toons” Leads to the Successful Prosecutions of Members of the Gangster Disciples Including One of the Largest Heroin/Fentanyl Suppliers In Wilmington

WILMINGTON, N.C. – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina partnered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Federal Bureau of Investigation Safe Streets Unit (FBI), Wilmington Police Department’s Gang and Narcotics Units, the New Hanover and Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Gang and Narcotics Units, and the New Hanover County District Attorney’s Office to investigate and prosecute violent Gangster Disciple gang members and a high-volume heroin/fentanyl operation supplying the New Hanover and Brunswick County areas from New York. The ensuing investigation, named Operation Tiny Toons, led to the successful investigation, prosecution, and conviction of 18 defendants.

According to court documents, evidence presented in court, and other information is some of the defendants and information related to this investigation.  

Darion “Pluck” Graham, 31, was sentenced on February 16, 2021, to 365 months imprisonment for (1) Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute 1000 grams or more of heroin; (2) two counts of Distribution of a quantity of heroin (aiding and abetting) and (3) Possess with Intent to Distribute of 100 grams or more of heroin (aiding and abetting).

Between October 2015 and May 2017, the Brunswick and New Hanover County Sheriff’s Offices with the Wilmington Police Department made several controlled purchases of more than 90 grams of heroin from Graham and persons working at his direction in various locations in Wilmington, North Carolina.  On August 29, 2017, the Wilmington Police Department and the ATF served a search warrant on Graham’s residence on Summertime Lane in Wilmington.  Graham was on house arrest at the time of the search for pending North Carolina state charges.  Law enforcement found a small quantity of heroin and fentanyl, packaging material for narcotics distribution, and more than $13,000.  Graham was detained exiting the bathroom with the toilet running. Law enforcement determined that Graham had managed to flush a large quantity of heroin down the toilet while they were making a forced entry into the residence. From February until May 2019, the Wilmington Police Department and the FBI made several controlled purchases totaling 30 grams of heroin from Graham.  On June 28, 2019, the Wilmington Police Department and the FBI served a search warrant on a River Front Place Apartment.  The apartment was rented in the name of Kayla Jackson’s mother.  Graham and Jackson arrived at the residence and fled upon seeing the police.  They were arrested in a wooded area near the apartment.  Law enforcement found 761 grams of a heroin/fentanyl mixture and more than $16,000.  Jackson had pending heroin charges in state court at the time of her arrest.  Qwanelle Ruffin was also staying at the apartment and was arrested on the same day.  During the investigation, law enforcement discovered that Graham had more than 10 people distributing heroin and/or fentanyl for him.  Graham was supplying and working with members of the Gangster Disciples in Wilmington. Graham’s heroin was coming primarily from New York.  Graham was responsible for the distribution of more than 7 kilograms of heroin, more than 750 grams of a heroin/fentanyl mixture, and a quantity of a heroin/methamphetamine mixture.   According to law enforcement, Graham was one of the largest heroin/fentanyl suppliers in New Hanover County at the time of his federal indictment.

Kayla “Lady K” Jackson was sentenced on November 9, 2021, to 85 months imprisonment for (1) Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute 100 grams or more of heroin; (2) Possession with Intent to Distribute a quantity of heroin and (3) Possession with Intent to Distribute 100 grams or more of heroin (aiding and abetting). On March 6, 2017, a Wilmington Police Officer stopped Jackson for a traffic violation.  The officer asked her to exit the vehicle due to the odor of marijuana.  Instead, Jackson fled at a high rate of speed, lost control of her car and crashed into another car.  Jackson then fled on foot.  Law enforcement found heroin and PCP in the car.  Law enforcement received information during the investigation that Jackson drove Graham to deliver heroin including a “golf ball” sized amount of heroin to Qwanelle Ruffin.

Qwanelle “El Patron” Ruffin 28, was sentenced on April 23, 2021, to 132 months in federal prison for: (1) Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute (100) Grams or more of Heroin; (2) Three Counts of Distribution of a Quantity of Heroin and Aiding and Abetting; (3) Seven Counts of Distribution of a Quantity of Heroin; and (4) Possession With Intent to Distribute One Hundred (100) Grams or More of Heroin and Aiding and Abetting.  Between November 2018 and June 2019, the Wilmington Police Department, assisted by the FBI, conducted numerous controlled purchases of heroin and a heroin/fentanyl mixture from Ruffin and co-conspirators that he had deliver for him.  Ruffin had people delivering for him in part because he was recovering from a gunshot wound.  The investigation uncovered that Ruffin had also been packaging and storing heroin for distribution at residences on Spring Street and 13th Street in Wilmington.  Ruffin had been robbed of heroin on two occasions but continued to distribute heroin.  Ruffin was also arrested for his role in the heroin/fentanyl mixture that was seized on June 28, 2019.  According to a civil injunction, Ruffin was a member of the Gangster Disciples.

Maurice “Gotti” Bellamy, 29, was sentenced on April 23, 2021, to 132 months in prison for (1) Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute a Quantity of Heroin and (2) Distribution of a Quantity of Heroin.  On June 11, 2019, law enforcement made a controlled purchase of heroin from Bellamy.  The investigation uncovered that Bellamy was involved in the distribution of more than 2 kilograms of heroin. According to a civil injunction filed in 2017 against the Folk Nation-720 Gangster Disciples in New Hanover County Superior Court, Bellamy was a member of the Gangster Disciples.

Alphonso “Trick Rick” McClendon, 27, was sentenced on April 23, 2021, to 66 months imprisonment for (1) Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with the Intent to Distribute 100 grams or more of heroin (2) Distribution of a quantity of heroin and (3) Possession with Intent to Distribute a quantity of heroin.  In May 2019, law enforcement made a controlled purchase of a mixture of heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine from McClendon.  On June 26, 2019, the Wilmington Police Department served a search warrant at McClendon’s residence. Law enforcement found 35 grams of a mixture of heroin/fentanyl, paperwork related to the Gangster Disciples, and a Glock magazine. According to law enforcement and the civil injunction, McClendon was a member of the Gangster Disciples.

Corbin Juran was sentenced on February 27, 2020, to 84 months’ imprisonment for (1) Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, (2) Conspiracy to Possess with the Intent to Distribute a quantity of heroin and (3) Distribution of a quantity of heroin. On May 1, 2019, the Wilmington Police Department responded to a call at a motel.  Officers observed Juran and a female walking from the dumpster behind the motel.  While speaking with Juran, law enforcement confirmed that he had an active arrest warrant from Onslow County.  Juran fled as officers attempted to pat him down for weapons.  Officers recovered a .22 revolver that had been in Juran’s waistband and a small quantity of methamphetamine, which he had thrown down.   Juran told law enforcement that he was a member of the Folk Nation.   On May 24, 2019, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Gang and Narcotics Units received information that Juran was going to pick up heroin from a source of supply at a mini-mart in Wilmington.  Law enforcement observed Juran enter the store and exit quickly.  Detectives performed a traffic stop on the car, and Juran was found in possession of 500 bags containing a mixture of heroin, fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl.  Juran told detectives that he had picked up heroin from this source multiple times over the last couple of months. According to law enforcement, Juran was a member of the Gangster Disciples.

Terrance Fisher was sentenced on August 27, 2020, to 112 months imprisonment for (1) Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute a quantity of heroin; (2) Distribution of a quantity of heroin; and (3) Possession with Intent to Distribute a quantity of heroin.  On February 19, 2019, the FBI Safe Street Task Force and the Wilmington Police Department’s Narcotics and Gang Units conducted a controlled purchase of heroin from Fisher in the area of Market Street in Wilmington.  On February 20, 2019, the FBI Task Force and Wilmington Police Detectives conducted a search of a room at the Suburban Extended Stay in Wilmington where Fisher had been staying.  Law enforcement found a quantity of heroin in the room. Fisher was not present at the time of the search; instead, Fisher was visiting his North Carolina State Probation Officer.  Law enforcement arrested Fisher when he left the visit with his probation officer and found heroin that he had given someone to hold for him during the visit.  According to law enforcement, Fisher was a member of the Gangster Disciples.

Shamon “Toe” Kinston, 41, was sentenced on August 23, 2019, to 90 months’ imprisonment, for (1) Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with the Intent to Distribute 100 grams or more of heroin and 500 grams or more of cocaine, (2) Distribution of a quantity of heroin and (3) Possession with the Intent to Distribute a quantity of heroin and a quantity of crack cocaine.  On August 20, 2018, the Wilmington Police Department searched Kinston’s residence and found 71 grams of heroin, approximately a half an ounce of crack cocaine, and more than $6,000 in cash.  Prior to the search of the residence, Wilmington Police Officers attempted to perform a traffic stop on Kinston.  Kinston refused to stop and took police on a high-speed chase.  Kinston ultimately wrecked his motorcycle and was arrested.  During the investigation, law enforcement learned that the items seized were a part of a kilogram of cocaine and 200 grams of heroin that Kinston had been provided for distribution in New Hanover County.

Miguel Angel Ramos, 31, was sentenced on February 17, 2021, to 156 months imprisonment for distribution of a quantity of fentanyl.   The Wilmington Police Department and the FBI Safe Streets Unit made two controlled purchases from Ramos in July 2019.  Ramos had prior state convictions for possession with the intent deliver a controlled substance and trafficking in heroin/opium.

Latwon “Birdy Bird” James, 40, was sentenced on December 1, 2020, to a total of 288 months in prison for (1) Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute a quantity of heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl and 28 grams or more of cocaine base (crack), (2) Distribution of a quantity of heroin and fentanyl, (3) Possession with the Intent to Distribute a quantity of heroin, fentanyl and more than twenty-eight (28) grams of cocaine base (crack).  From July 2018 to July 2019, law enforcement made controlled purchases from James on multiple occasions involving heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine. In addition, James possessed with the intent to distribute a quantity of heroin, fentanyl and 28 grams or more of cocaine base (crack).  James was on federal supervised release at the time that he committed these offenses.

A target of the investigation, Sherrod Crum, was murdered in Greensboro in May 2017.

The New Hanover County District Attorney’s Office filed a civil injunction against members of the Gangster Disciples (17 CVS 4184) in 2017.   This court filing contained a great deal of information collected by the Wilmington Police Department Gang Unit.

This is part of operation “Tiny Toons” which is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launders, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

G. Norman Acker, III, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Federal Bureau of Investigation Safe Streets Section, the Wilmington Police Department Gang and Narcotics Sections and the Brunswick and New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Severo  prosecuted the case.

Related court documents and information can be found on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching for Case No. 19-CR-00126.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Opioids
Updated November 12, 2021