Greenbelt, Maryland – A federal grand jury has indicted 14 members of the Simple City Criminal Organization (Simple City) for a $5 million racketeering conspiracy. The indictment alleges that the members of the conspiracy engaged in criminal activity, including: the theft of vehicles, the sale and transportation of stolen vehicles and items stolen from vehicles including cell phones, computers, tablets and purses, among other items; fraud and identity theft committed using stolen credit and debit cards and check books; and commercial armed robberies and thefts from ATMs. The indictment was returned on July 13, 2015 and unsealed today, upon the arrests of the defendants. Approximately 140 law enforcement officers from four federal, state and local agencies executed 11 search warrants and arrested seven defendants. Two defendants were already in custody on state and federal charges. Five defendants are still being sought.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Chief Mark A. Magaw of the Prince George’s County Police Department; and Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department.
The indictment charges the following defendants who are in custody:
Jeff Crews, a/k/a “Fro,” age 24, of Washington, D.C.;
Sylvia Price, a/k/a “Deez Nuts,” age 49, of Suitland, Maryland;
Stefon Janey, a/k/a “Stef,” and “Stef Luva,” age 22, of Marlow Heights, Maryland;
Kwasi Crichlow, age 21, of Washington, D.C.;
Earl Ferguson, a/k/a “Frank,” age 32, of Upper Marlboro;
Lamonte Henson, a/k/a “Tiggy,” and “Tiggy Stacks,” age 23, of Upper Marlboro;
Michael Price, a/k/a “Mikey,” age 21, of Suitland;
Jessica Rubio, a/k/a “Jazz,” age 38, of Washington, D.C.; and
Shatei Tucker, a/k/a “Bootsie,” age 54, of Washington, D.C.
According to the indictment, Simple City has been operating in the Washington metropolitan area since at least 2009. The conspirators met on a regular basis, and reported to the organization’s leadership, including Jeff Crews, Sylvia Price, and Stefon Janey, through the use of cell phones, texts and iMessages, and social media (such as Instagram). Members sought direction, instruction, and advice on how to commit crimes. The leaders updated members on Simple City business and resolved disagreements regarding operations among members and associates. Incarcerated members regularly communicated with outside members and associates to discuss Simple City matters and to plan future criminal activity. The conspirators trafficked firearms and shared the proceeds from their criminal activity.
According to court documents, Simple City usually started their crime sprees by committing “hop-in” style motor vehicle thefts or carjackings. Hop-in thefts occur when a person leaves a running vehicle unattended and a member of the organization gets into the vehicle and drives away. The conspirators typically parked the stolen vehicle on the side of a road or in a public parking lot until they believed that law enforcement was no longer actively looking for the vehicle. The conspirators then used the stolen vehicle to commit other crimes, including thefts from autos, citizen robberies and burglaries targeting ATMs. The conspirators then attempted to sell the stolen car. Additionally, the conspirators sold any personal identification information (PII) and credit cards and debit cards they stole during the crime spree to another group within Simple City led by Sylvia Price. Sylvia Price’s group then allegedly used the PII and credit/debit cards to commit wire fraud, credit card fraud and aggravated identity theft. Sylvia Price typically provided a portion of the proceeds to Crews for disbursement to other Simple City members – generally those members who were active participants in the thefts. Any cash obtained during the crime spree was kept by the conspirators and stolen electronics were typically sold for profit.
For example, the indictment alleges that on June 23, 2014, Crews and a co-conspirator communicated by text message discussing whether Crews had stolen vehicles to sell to the co-conspirator. Crews subsequently sent the co-conspirator three pictures of a stolen 2014 Mercedes by text message. On September 5, 2014, a co-defendant sent Crews an iMessage that contained a photograph of two firearms, offering to sell Crews the two pictured firearms for $1,200. On April 18, 2015, Crews, Janey and another person robbed a gas station in Beltsville, using a crowbar to forcibly enter the employee vestibule area and stealing cash from the register. Further, Sylvia Price, Jessica Rubio, Shatei Tucker and others used stolen checks and credit cards to obtain cash and merchandise.
Finally, the indictment seeks the forfeiture of $5 million, believed to be the proceeds obtained from the racketeering activity.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for racketeering conspiracy. An initial appearance was held for six of the arrested defendants today in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. Rubio, Crichlow, Janey and Crews were ordered detained pending detention hearings next week. Henson and Ferguson, who are currently in custody on other charges, will have an initial appearance on these federal charges at a later date. No court appearance has been scheduled for Sylvia Price.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI, Prince George’s County Police Department, Montgomery County Police Department and the members of the Washington Area Vehicle Enforcement Unit for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas M. Sullivan and Nicolas A. Mitchell, who are prosecuting the case.