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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 3, 2018

Seven Manatee County Men Charged In Federal Racketeering Case Involving Six Murders

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the unsealing of a 12-count indictment charging seven individuals, all of Manatee County, for their roles in a racketeering conspiracy involving murder, attempted murder, arson, robbery, drug trafficking, and other crimes. The attached summary chart identifies the individuals, charged offenses, and potential penalties. Anyone with information relevant to this case is encouraged to call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867) or email ATFTips@atf.gov.

According to the indictment, Jordan Rodriguez (24), Andrew Thompson (23), Alfonzo Churchwell (31), Juan Ortiz (24), Raymy Escoto (23), Phillip Uscanga (24), and Jesse Rodriguez (20) were part of an ongoing criminal enterprise in Manatee County that furthered their illegal activities by, among other things, using and threatening to use various levels of violence, ranging from simple assault to murder, and by concealing and destroying evidence of, and tampering with witnesses to, their illegal activities.

The indictment alleges that on January 1, 2016, Thompson shot and killed Demetrius Robinson and Florence Randall. On the same day, Jordan Rodriguez, Ortiz, Escoto, and Uscanga committed a drive-by shooting, killing Julio Tellez. On September 11, 2017, Churchwell shot and killed Earnestine Gardner. On January 13, 2017, Thompson shot and killed LaShawna Stevenson-Weeks and Berry Joseph.

The indictment also alleges that Jesse Rodriguez, Jordan Rodriguez, Andrew Thompson, and Alfonzo Churchwell used and maintained a drug premises.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has violated one or more of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, and the State Attorney’s Office for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Natalie Hirt Adams and Christopher F. Murray.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that has been successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. In October 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the reinvigoration of PSN and directed all U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to develop districtwide crime reduction strategies, incorporating the lessons learned since the program’s inception in 2001. In the Middle District of Florida, U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez coordinates PSN efforts in cooperation with various federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.

Name

Charge/Count

Maximum Penalty

Jordan Rodriguez

Andrew Thompson

Alfonzo Churchwell

Juan Ortiz

Raymy Escoto

Phillip Uscanga

Jesse Rodriguez

(Count One)

RICO Conspiracy

 

Life in federal prison.

 

Jordan Rodriguez

Andrew Thompson

Alfonzo Churchwell

Jesse Rodriguez

(Count Two)

Drug Trafficking Conspiracy

 

20 years in federal prison.

Raymy Escoto

Phillip Uscanga

(Count Three)

Arson Conspiracy

Minimum mandatory term of 5 years, and up to 20 years, in federal prison.  

Raymy Escoto

Phillip Uscanga

(Count Four)

Arson

Minimum mandatory term of 5 years, and up to 20 years, in federal prison.  

Andrew Thompson

(Count Five)

Possession with the intent to distribute heroin, cocaine, and crack cocaine

20 years in federal prison.

Alfonzo Churchwell

 

(Count Six)

Discharge of a firearm resulting in death of Earnestine Gardner, during and in relation to a drug trafficking conspiracy

Minimum mandatory term of 10 years, and up to life, in federal prison (to run consecutive to any other term of imprisonment), or death.

Alfonzo Churchwell

(Count Seven)

Felon in possession of ammunition

10 years in federal prison.

Andrew Thompson

 

(Count Eight)

Attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine

20 years in federal prison.

Andrew Thompson

 

(Count Nine)

Discharge of a firearm resulting in death of Lashawna Stevenson-Weeks, during and in relation to drug trafficking crimes

Minimum mandatory term of 10 years, and up to life, in federal prison (to run consecutive to any other term of imprisonment), or death.

Andrew Thompson

 

(Count Ten)

Discharge of a firearm resulting in death of Berry Joseph, during and in relation to drug trafficking crimes

Minimum mandatory term of 10 years, and up to life, in federal prison (to run consecutive to any other term of imprisonment), or death.

Andrew Thompson

(Count Eleven)

Possession of firearms and ammunition while subject to a restraining order

10 years in federal prison.

Jordan Rodriguez

Andrew Thompson

Alfonzo Churchwell

Jesse Rodriguez

(Count Twelve)

Using or maintaining a drug premises

20 years in federal prison.

Attachment(s): 
Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Opioids
Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Updated May 3, 2018