Leaders of Brownsville-based gang convicted of racketeering, murder

June 26, 2015 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Kelly T. Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Eagle file photo
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This past Thursday, following approximately eight weeks of trial, a federal jury in Brooklyn returned guilty verdicts against Paul Rivera and Michael Garrett on charges of racketeering, murder, sex trafficking, narcotics trafficking, money laundering and witness tampering.

These charges arose out of the defendants’ participation in and leadership of a gang known as “Together Forever” or the rap group “TF Mafia” (also referred to as “TF”) that for many years engaged in narcotics trafficking, sex trafficking, gang activity and related violence in areas including Brownsville, a neighborhood victimized by a high rate of gang and drug related violent crime.

When sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto, both defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment on the most serious charge.

The verdicts were announced by Kelly T. Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Diego Rodriguez, assistant director-in-charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), New York Field Office.

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“With this verdict, the jury sent a message that our community will not stand for those who prey upon young, vulnerable girls for their own financial gain and supply our neighborhoods with dangerous narcotics,” stated Currie. “We also hope that this verdict brings some closure to the family of Robert Barber, who was gunned down by these defendants in their effort to protect their illegal enterprise.”

Currie extended his thanks to the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, New York City Police Department, the Pennsylvania State Police, the New Jersey State Police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

As proven at trial, the defendants were leaders of TF Mafia, a Brooklyn-based rap group, and Together Forever, a group that has operated in various neighborhoods of Brooklyn since the 1980s. The gang had members engaged in criminal activity in Brooklyn as well as in other parts of New York and in Pennsylvania.

In connection with their leadership of TF, Rivera and Garrett plotted to kill — and did kill — Robert Barber in the summer of 2011 because they perceived Barber, who was a member of a rival gang, as a threat to TF’s control of narcotics sales in Brownsville.

On the evening of Aug. 22, 2011, Rivera observed Barber walking outside the tattoo shop run by Rivera, which was located at 361 Sutter Ave. in Brownsville. Rivera took a firearm that had been supplied by Garrett, stood in the entrance to the tattoo shop, and shot Barber once, killing him. Garrett subsequently provided Rivera with payment, in the form of money and heroin, for the murder.

The jury also found the defendants guilty of interstate prostitution and sex trafficking, including sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion, and sex trafficking of one or more minors, which activities were committed as part of TF’s illegal activities.

At trial, two victims testified about their involvement with TF, including one victim who became involved with TF when she was 14 years old, and another who testified that she began working as a prostitute for the defendants shortly after she met them, which, as proven at trial, was when she was 15 years old.

The jury also found the defendants guilty of narcotics trafficking conspiracy, involving cocaine base, heroin, cocaine and marijuana, and firearms offenses including use of a firearm to cause the death of Robert Barber. Garrett was also convicted on money laundering and Rivera was convicted of witness tampering and attempted obstruction of justice related to his efforts to convince a witness to cease cooperating with the government.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Taryn Merkl, Alixandra Smith and Michael Robotti.

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