MGM Part 2: Even Facebook plays a role in undercover challenges
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.
When Henderson police started to piece together information from a rash of shootings in 2011, the evolution of an undercover operation framed their puzzle on a criminal organization.
As the investigations turned into arrests and judicial proceedings, their work subsequently made the rounds among the suspects — even through social media like Facebook.
Going undercover isn’t easy. Keen strategy two years ago has so far led to eight jail sentences, 10 more are waiting to happen, and about 35 firearms and more than a quarter-million dollars in heroin have been seized.
The organization is known as the Money Gang Mob. When all is said and done, more than three dozen could be going through the court system.
But how are so many slowly gathered while the public and law enforcement, including informants, are kept safe? Thought, planning by a highly trained team and cooperation between agencies as well as state and federal prosecutors is pivotal.
In beginning to weaken MGM, the Henderson police worked alongside the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Allison Capps, an assistant district attorney, was the prosecutor on the state level and Randy Renfer handled federal cases from the U.S. attorney’s office in Raleigh.
Tim Sloan of the ATF and Lt. Alan Hedgepeth of the Henderson police were coordinators between the two law enforcement agencies.
“Any undercover operation, there has to be a time lapse between when the thing happened, and when you come in and make an arrest,” Capps said. “If not, covers are blown and people’s lives are in danger.”
“So if you have a confidential informant, who is working with an undercover officer, and you are buying five grams of heroin, you can’t get that buy and then immediately arrest a person,” Capps said. “Number one, you’ve burned your CI and their life is in danger. Or, number two, there is no way to use them again to get the next guy the next day.
“And so any long-term undercover operation, there has to be time between when you see the thing happen and make an arrest. If not, the undercover operation falls apart, or number two, people get hurt.”
“These people are smart,” Hedgepeth said. “When you start trial proceedings on some, they get discovery. Well, they get copies of it, they pass it around to their friends. Then everybody knows what went down in that person’s case. They pass it around to each other, they pass it around on Facebook, they spread it everywhere. It spreads like wildfire.”
Capps and Hedgepeth said anytime an arrest is warranted, it is made.
“If there ever was a shooting, or they happened to make a traffic stop by chance and there was one of these guys in there and he had a gun on him or whatever else, they were immediately arrested,” Capps said. “When I say patience, I mean the patience to do the intel, do surveillance, learn your target, and then put together an undercover operation that would work.”
Not all of the work on MGM came through undercover operations, but a significant amount did over the course of time.
“I will say that’s one great thing about this whole investigation, is that they took their time,” Capps said. “And sometimes, with things that happen that don’t have the experienced detectives working on it, there’s not that element of patience. There is a ‘we’ve got to go, we’ve got to arrest somebody now, the public is looking at us, we’ve got to answer to this.’”
And that, said Hedgepeth and Capps, can be exactly the wrong approach.
“Number one, these people aren’t going anywhere,” Capps said. “These people have known that the feds were watching them, and they still are here, still doing the same things that they were doing. Sometimes, just having a little bit of patience and sitting back and making a case, building a case, from the beginning to the end, there is something to be said for that.
“Then you have a strong case that you don’t have to pray that a victim shows up, or pray that the witnesses get in line, or pray that something falls into place. When you have done solid detective work for the course of many months, you don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff because you have built a solid case and there’s no way these folks are getting out of. And I can say that for this case, no doubt.”
“If there was probable cause on any incident for an arrest, while this was going on, the arrest was made on the state level,” Hedgepeth said. “That’s where one of the biggest cooperations with us and them came into, they were able to, for lack of a better word, manipulate the schedules so that we could do what we needed to do while still maintaining a sense of order.”
“And we did that with a lot of the people they took,” Capps said.
Contact the writer at email@example.com.
Money Gang Mob
Serving sentences already as part of the Money Gang Mob case are Tyshik-kee Williams (20 years), Darnell Tyrece Hayes (17 years, six months), Herbert Artis Smith (15 years), Almonmonick “Shawn” Bullock (nine years), Angela Wilkerson (five years, 10 months), Justin Williams (five years, 10 months), Patrick O’Neil Cooper (five years, three months) and Mercedes Christmas-McKinnie (four years) are already in prison.
Sentences, trials or pleas are pending for Jaquan Cooper, Quentin Davis, Dwight Gooding, Jasmine Hargrove, La’Trel Henderson, Jonquil McKinley, Quatrail Pair, Robert Ross, Kirk Swain Jr. and Tyrone Yancey.