Memphis, TN – After a three-week trial involving a total of 74 witnesses and more than 120 exhibits, a federal jury found five members of the Conservative Vice Lords Concrete Cartel criminal gang guilty of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activities, multiple armed pharmacy robberies, and drug trafficking conspiracy. U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant announced the guilty verdict today.
On May 31, 2018, a federal grand jury returned a 34-count indictment against 12 members of the Concrete Cartel, a subset of the Conservative Vice Lords criminal gang whose headquarters is located in Chicago. The Concrete Cartel and its members operate mainly in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee and North Mississippi. The indictment charged a RICO conspiracy, 10 separate Hobbs Act business robberies, and multiple counts of brandishing and discharging firearms during the commission of those crimes of violence. The indictment also charged conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute multiple controlled substances that were obtained as proceeds in the robberies. According to information presented in court, the members of the Concrete Cartel targeted and committed armed robberies of multiple CVS and Walgreens pharmacies, obtaining thousands of opioids for redistribution to members of their organization as well as the public to enrich themselves and the gang enterprise.
Seven of the twelve members previously pled guilty to the RICO conspiracy and other crimes charged. The five members who went to trial and were found guilty were high-ranking leaders in the organization, and included:
• Nernest Andre Nesby a/k/a/ "Neno," 25
• Markease Tyshawn Alexander a/k/a/ "Citi," 26
• Davante Levert Turner a/k/a/ "Star," 26
• Tondwin Tierre Lewis a/k/a "T-Luey," 26
• Ariq Rayford a/k/a/ "Curry," 22
One of the defendants was a Tennessee statewide leader and another was a citywide leader in the Conservative Vice Lords Concrete Cartel gang. The remaining defendants were branch leaders in the organization, claiming areas in East Memphis, Orange Mound and Whitehaven. This federal prosecution and guilty verdict is the result of an extensive investigation which began in 2015 by federal, state and local law enforcement officials into the criminal gang enterprise, and entailed the recovery or seizures of thousands of opioids and other controlled substances before the defendants distributed the drugs on the streets.
The defendants were found guilty on a total of 29 of the 34 charged counts. All of the defendants were found guilty of the RICO conspiracy and other charges in the indictment.
U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said, "Dismantlement of criminal gangs is a top priority of this office and the Department of Justice, and this case represents the collaborative efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement to target and remove several significant violent leaders and participants in the Conservative Vice Lords organization. We are taking the fight to the gangs in West Tennessee, we are successfully punishing gang members for their criminal activity, and we are relentless in our resolve."
Sentencing will be set on a later date before U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker. Each of the defendants faces possible sentences of up to 20 years for each of the RICO conspiracy, Hobbs Act business robbery, and drug conspiracy counts, as well as consecutive mandatory minimum sentences of 7 years for brandishing a firearm and 10 years for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force and the Multi-Agency Gang Unit (MGU) of the Memphis Police Department and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Whitmore and Raney Irwin are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.