Choosing the route for penalties
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.
(Part 3 of a series)
Choosing which route to send suspects from the Money Gang Mob for criminal prosecution involved consideration of past records and current ages to get the most punishment.
But it also included two very different timelines, courtesy of the differences in the state and federal systems.
The Money Gang Mob has been a criminal organization targeted by Henderson police, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and prosecutors from the state and federal levels. Arrests and prosecutions have been made, and more continue to evolve.
About three dozen firearms and heroin worth a quarter-million dollars has been seized in multiple states. Eight convictions have led to sentences ranging from four to 20 years, and 10 more are pending in the judicial system.
More arrests are expected. The success of the case garnered a regional award at last month’s Gangs Across the Carolinas awards banquet.
Depending on which route is taken, state or federal, the suspects may be out on bond or jailed with no virtually no chance to get out. Because of the bankroll behind MGM, choosing the correct route is pivotal for the safety of Henderson and Vance County.
“This was an organization that had money at their disposal, and people would post bonds,” said state prosecutor Allison Capps, an assistant district attorney. “Some were low, but some were significant bonds and these folks would still post them.”
The two systems are different in timing and in bonding.
“Our wait time is at the end, and their wait time is at the beginning,” Capps said. “So, they’re probably getting ready to indict cases that may be 2 years old, but when they indict them, it goes from indictment, to arraignment, to either plea or trial quick.”
“Like three or four months,” said Lt. Alan Hedgepeth of the Henderson Police Department.
“In the state, officers take out arrest warrants and they go before a magistrate and it’s almost simultaneous,” Hedgepeth said. “In the federal system, that’s possible, but the preferred method of working is they go to indictment first, and then they’re arrested.”
That’s an option on the state level, but rarely used.
“We have done that with some of these cases,” Capps said. “We’ve skipped the arrest warrant process and gone straight to the grand jury, even in the state system for some of the cases.”
In those, Hedgepeth and Tim Sloan, a federal agent with the ATF, took the stand for the grand jury.
“That’s why people haven’t been arrested in the federal system because the timing is backward almost,” Capps said. “Once they’ve been indicted, three to four months, they’re tried or pleaded and they are sentenced. Whereas for us, it takes much longer.”
Does one stick better than the other?
“The federal prosecutors pick and choose what cases they prosecute,” Capps said. “I don’t get to do that. Whatever these guys arrest and charge, I’ve got to review and decide whether it’s a good case or not a good case.
“Whereas in the federal system, the prosecutors go to the indictment process, they get to pick and choose what they’re going to take. They have a 98 percent conviction rate because they get to pick what cases they get. But that’s why they have such a high conviction rate. And why they stick, and why they get the sentences they do. They take good cases against people who deserve it.”
They also can find room for those convicted and needing a jail bed.
“They have the means and capability to send them where ever there is an empty space,” Hedgepeth said.
“In 50 states,” Capps added. “They don’t have the North Carolina legislature telling them not to send people to prison, like we do, basically making the law such that, put people on probation and then don’t revoke their probation. That’s kind of what we were told.
“And they don’t have to house people forever before they are convicted because they’re there just a very short time.”
Many county jails contract holding federal inmates, including at one time Vance County.
Unlike the state system that allows bond, suspects in the federal system are either released on their recognizance or they go to jail.
Hedgepeth said only two taken in the investigation so far have gained pretrial release. But their remaining freedom was short.
“When you plead guilty, you’re not sentenced until three months later,” Hedgepeth said. “The day they pleaded guilty, they were in the custody of the U.S. marshals.”
Coming Thursday: Judicial penalties.
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