‘Bully Gang’ members charged with racketeering in Brooklyn Federal Court
Current, former correction officers also arrested
A superseding indictment was unsealed Thursday in Brooklyn Federal Court charging 11 members and associates of the violent New York City-based street gang known as the “Bully Gang” with racketeering for their role in multiple crimes, including attempted murder, armed robbery, narcotics trafficking, bribery, extortion and money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District.
Charges against multiple co-conspirators were also unsealed, including a New York City Department of Correction (DOC) officer and a former DOC officer who allegedly trafficked drugs into DOC facilities at the behest of the founder and leader of the Bully Gang.
Six defendants were arrested in the New York area on Thursday and were arraigned via videoconference this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon. The remaining defendants will be arraigned at a later date.
In June 2018, Moeleek Harrell, the founder and leader of the Bully Gang, allegedly conspired with Derrick Ayers, another member, to murder a perceived rival of the gang, whom Harrell later reportedly shot on a street in Brooklyn. Harrell’s leadership of the gang continued even after his incarceration at Rikers Island, where he allegedly led a drug trafficking, bribery and money laundering scheme responsible for smuggling drugs into the jail through the use of conspirators and the payment of bribes to correctional officers.
According to the indictment, the defendants also operated a years-long, sophisticated drug trafficking network responsible for trafficking large quantities of dangerous drugs like crack cocaine, heroin and fentanyl through New York to Maine, and elsewhere. The gang’s leaders allegedly sent Brooklyn-based drug dealers, including Bully Gang members and associates, from New York to Maine to operate “trap” houses where narcotics were stored and sold.
The organization’s drug proceeds were collected on a regular basis and laundered through financial transactions and the purchase of high-value assets, including jewelry and cars, the indictment charges. During the investigation, law enforcement seized more than $380,000 in cash, more than 15 firearms, six kilograms of cocaine, 600 grams of fentanyl, multiple luxury watches and four vehicles with concealed trap compartments installed.
In the summer of 2020, Bully Gang members Franklin Gillespie and Latrell Johnson committed a spree of gunpoint robberies, displaying firearms to victims on the street in lower Manhattan to overpower them. In 2020 and 2021, Johnson also extorted a local business in Brooklyn, brandishing a firearm as part of the extortion scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Between June 2019 and June 2020, Johnny Chiles, currently employed by DOC as an officer, and then-DOC officer Darius Murphy accepted payments from gang associates in exchange for delivering papers soaked in synthetic cannabinoids to inmates at Rikers Island, the indictment charges.
Brooklyn defendants who were charged in the indictment include Kassin Appling, Johnny Chiles, Ronald Davis, Laron Estrada, Robert Holt, Darius Murphy and Terrell Ratliff. Several other Brooklynites were charged in recent related indictments as well.
Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme of the Eastern District of New York; John B. DeVito, Special Agent-in-Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, New York Field Division (ATF); NYPD Commissioner Dermot F. Shea and Commissioner Margaret Garnett, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation (DOI), announced the arrests and charges.
“For years, members and associates of the Bully Gang have committed brutal and wanton acts of violence while spreading the poison of dangerous and illicit drugs throughout communities and even correctional institutions,” stated Acting United States Attorney DuCharme.
“This investigation deals a substantial blow to gang violence on our City streets and demonstrates the critical need to uphold integrity as a City employee and in all City operations. As charged, these current and former City Correction officers used the access and influence of their position to traffic dangerous drugs from the Bully Gang to inmates on Rikers Island in exchange for bribes, undermining the safety of the City’s jails and that of their fellow officers,” said DOI Commissioner Garnett.
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