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Press Release

Gangster Disciples Member Pleads Guilty to Fraud, Money Laundering, and Drug Charges in Connection with Prison-Based Phone Scam

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala – A former inmate at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility (Donaldson) in Bessemer, Alabama pleaded guilty yesterday for his role leading a prison-based phone scam that targeted retailers throughout the country, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Patrick Davis.

Ricardo Poole, Sr., aka “Raoul,” 48, of Bessemer, Alabama, entered a guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre to one count of wire fraud conspiracy, one count of money laundering conspiracy, one count of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute controlled substances, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Poole Sr. is the seventh member of the conspiracy to plead guilty.

According to the plea agreement, between September 2020 and May 2022, Poole Sr. and others tricked retailers into activating gift cards under fraudulent pretenses and then used those fraudulently obtained gift cards to purchase merchandise and make other expenditures.

The plea agreement describes Poole Sr. as a high-ranking member of the Gangster Disciples at Donaldson, and the Gangster Disciples as a violent national criminal gang, founded in Chicago, and active across the U.S., including Alabama. According to court documents, Poole Sr.’s co-defendant, Terry Ray Bradshaw, was a “skit runner” who was housed at Donaldson for most of the period charged in the indictment. While at Donaldson, Bradshaw called retailers and used spoofing technology and social engineering techniques to pose as store executives so that he could trick employees into activating gift cards. During the relevant period, Bradshaw worked as a “skit runner” for Poole Sr. and other members of the Gangster Disciples at Donaldson. In exchange for his work as a “skit runner,” Poole Sr. provided Bradshaw with luxury items like Cartier glasses, protection from the Gangster Disciples, and controlled substances like methamphetamine.

The maximum punishment for the wire fraud conspiracy charge is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for the money laundering conspiracy charge is 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000 or twice the amount laundered. The maximum penalty for the conspiracy to distribute a controlled substances charge is 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine. The penalty for aggravated identity theft is an additional two years in prison.

The U.S. Secret Service Cyber Fraud Task Force investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward J. Canter and John M. Hundscheid are prosecuting the case. The Alabama Department of Corrections Law Enforcement Services Division, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have assisted in the investigation. 

Updated April 12, 2023