Punishment that makes city streets safer
Henderson police teamed with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and state and federal prosecutors against a criminal organization named the Money Gang Mob. The investigation, arrests and still ongoing prosecutions led to a special achievement award at last month’s fourth annual Gangs Across the Carolinas awards banquet. The Dispatch presents the story in four parts.
• Sunday: Part 1, Putting together a puzzle.
• Tuesday: Part 2, Going undercover.
• Wednesday: Part 3, Judicial process.
• Thursday: Part 4, Judicial penalties.
(Fourth in a series)
Just putting members of a criminal organization in prison wasn’t the goal of law enforcement and prosecutors. They wanted penalties of meaning.
The Money Gang Mob has crippled the Henderson area with drugs, guns and attitude. Of some 35 shootings dating back to the summer of 2011, many elements had to be connected in order to start gaining ground on those causing the damage.
Once the suspects were identified and apprehended, the prosecution was pivotal. Doing homework beforehand helped the process.
Success has followed, including with an award to investigators and prosecutors. Eight sentences add up to more than 80 years of prison time so far. Another 10 cases are in the judicial system. The arrests may only be halfway.
Henderson police, led by Lt. Alan Hedgepeth, worked with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, led by agent Tim Sloan. Sloan is assigned to Charlotte and works from the Raleigh field office.
Allison Capps and Randy Renfer were the key prosecutors. Capps is an assistant district attorney and Renfer is an assistant U.S. attorney for the Western Division of the Eastern District in Raleigh.
For the suspects, age and criminal records determined the directions they would go in the judicial system.
“With the federal system, depending on your criminal record, they can get a lot more time for some of these things than they can in the state system,” Capps said. “On the flipside, if they don’t have a record, and they’re dealing with heroin as opposed to cocaine, they can get more time in the state system. And that’s what their investigation began to reveal the more they got into it. Not only were there all these shootings that were going on, but these guys were trafficking in heroin, and they were also moving stolen firearms.”
During the investigation, law enforcement in multiple states removed three to four kilograms of heroin conservatively worth $300,000 to $400,000. They also took in about 35 firearms.
But heroin is punished differently in state and federal courts.
“Trafficking in heroin is 4 grams,” Capps said. “If you have 4 grams of heroin, you can be charged with the lowest level of trafficking.”
“Which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 70 months,” Hedgepeth added. “That’s an approach we took with some of these individuals, who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten that much time in the federal system. We geared our investigation toward that. Whereas, heroin just doesn’t have the penalty in the federal system that it does in the state system.”
Capps said, “The federal system, I guess back in the 1980s when crack cocaine was coming into popularity, the federal system made having crack cocaine almost a capital offense. But the sentencing for having rock cocaine is much steeper than having powder cocaine and even heroin.
“In the state system heroin is treated much more seriously, in my opinion, as it should be. But heroin has made a comeback in Henderson.”
Capps and Hedgepeth described U.S. 1 as a thoroughfare for heroin sales between Vance County and Wake County.
“This organization is not just working in Vance County,” Hedgepeth said. “They’ve worked in Franklin, Granville, Wake — they’ve been mobile.”
And people from other communities know where to go for business.
“We’ve seen them from Roanoke Rapids, Rocky Mount, Louisburg, Zebulon, Knightdale, Garner, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and I want to say possibly as far southwest as Pittsboro,” Hedgepeth said.
“And we’ve had a couple from Wilmington,” Capps said.
“We have some information there may have been some as far away as Carteret County,” Hedgepeth said. “We’ve not seen them directly.”
But chances are, they will.
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