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THREE OTHER GANG MEMBERS PLED GUILTY PRIOR TO TRIAL
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — United States Attorney Patrick A. Miles, Jr. announced today that a jury convicted Kenton Maurice Taylor, age 45, of heroin trafficking and conspiracy. He faces a federal prison term of at least ten years up to life and supervised release of at least eight years up to life.
Taylor is the leader of the Lansing branch of the Black P Stone Nation gang. As its "Prince," Taylor is the highest ranking member of that gang in the State of Michigan. The Black P Stone Nation is a street gang based in Chicago, which is estimated to have more than 30,000 members across the United States. The gang was originally formed in the 1950s and 1960s by Jeff Fort. Fort is currently serving a sentence of more than 150 years for convictions in 1987 and 1988, which stemmed from conspiring with Libya to perform acts of domestic terrorism and ordering the murder of a rival gang leader. The Black P Stone Nation imbues itself in religion to provide a gloss over its criminal activities and finances itself primarily through narcotics and firearms trafficking.
Taylor and three other gang members – Karl Alphonso Lockridge, Maurice Ray, Jr., and Eric Darnell Cooper – were charged with conspiracy to distribute in excess of 100 grams of heroin and trafficking in heroin. Taylor’s co-defendants all pled guilty prior to trial. Lockridge and Ray each face up to 40 years in prison for their role in the conspiracy. Cooper faces up to 20 years in prison for his role. Sentencing for Taylor is set for March 28, 2016 before U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff in Grand Rapids. Sentencing is scheduled for February 29 for Lockridge and March 14 for Ray and Cooper.
The conspiracy began in late 2012 when Taylor was released from the Michigan Department of Corrections after serving a five year prison term for cocaine distribution. Taylor returned home to Lansing, resumed leadership of the gang’s Lansing branch, and turned the gang’s focus towards heroin trafficking. Taylor, his co-defendants, and other gang members thereafter traveled to Chicago on a monthly basis to obtain heroin from their supply sources for further distribution in Lansing. Gang members armed themselves while on trips to Chicago and in and around Lansing in order to protect their drugs and their drug proceeds.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Lansing Police Department led the investigation, which began in January 2014. Other agencies contributing to the investigation included the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Michigan State Police, the Ingham County Sheriff’s Department, the Michigan State University Police Department, and the Michigan Department of Corrections. All agencies worked in concert as members of the Capital Area Violent Crimes Initiative (VCI).
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joel S. Fauson and Mark V. Courtade are handling the prosecution.