DETROIT (WWJ) – Six members of the Vice Lords street gang pleaded guilty this week to racketeering and firearms charges for their roles in the shootings of four family members.
Last year, Antonio Clark, Aramis Wilson, Tyrone Price, Jonathan Kinchen, Kojuan Lee, Kirshean Nelson, Dion Robinson and Kenneth Smith, were indicted on multiple counts of conspiracy, racketeering and firearms charges relating to the May 2015 gang-related shooting of four family members. Investigators say the shooting happened after two members tried to leave the gang.
According to the indictment, the defendants also trafficked in controlled substances — including marijuana, Xanax and ecstasy — from 2011 through 2015 at locations around the metro Detroit area, including at the now-shuttered Northland Mall in Southfield.
The indictment alleges that the Vice Lords’ leaders are located in both Chicago and Detroit, and that the gang is broken down into various “sets,” “decks,” or “branches,” including the Detroit-based Insane Vice Lords, Imperial Insane Vice Lords, Traveling Vice Lords, Conservative Vice Lords, Mafia Insane Vice Lords and Insane Goon Gang.
The indictment further alleges that members who seek to leave or withdraw from the gang oftentimes endure a physical beating, known as a “beat out,” by multiple Vice Lord members, or are targeted for killing, known as a “green light.”
According to the indictment, the defendants gathered at Smith’s home on May 7, 2015 to discuss their plan and gather firearms, including an AK-47 assault rifle. To maintain and improve their positions in the Traveling Vice Lords, investigators say Clark, Wilson, Price, Kinchen, Lee, Nelson and Robinson then traveled together to the intended victims’ house in multiple cars.
After a brief confrontation with family members, Clark opened fire with an AK-47, hitting four victims. More than two dozen shots were fired. All four victims suffered gunshot wounds, but are recovering.
Breakdown of pleas
• Clark, aka “Cheeto,” 26, pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder in in aid of racketeering, and one count of use and carry of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
• Wilson, aka “Ace,” 25, pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, and one count of use and carry of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
• Price, 27, pleaded guilty to two counts of Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering, and one count of Use and Carry of a Firearm During, and in Relation to, a Crime of Violence.
• Kinchen, aka “Deago,” 22, pleaded guilty to one count of RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) conspiracy.
• Lee, aka “Juan,” 20, pleaded guilty to one count of RICO conspiracy.
• Nelson, 19 pleaded guilty to one count of RICO conspiracy.
• Robinson, aka “Doggy,” 38, is expected to plead guilty next week on certain charges.
• Smith is currently a fugitive. Anyone with any information about Smith’s whereabouts is encouraged to call 313-234-5656.
“Gang members should take note that these recent cases demonstrate that the Detroit One strategy is permitting us to address gang violence with swift action and strong penalties,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a statement. “If any individual wants to leave gang life, we are here to help them do that safely.”
The charges relating to the May 2015 shooting are just one component of the federal government’s prosecution of the Vice Lords street gang, which has led to the arrests and convictions of gang leaders and members over several years. In two trials in March and May 2015, juries convicted eight leaders and members of the Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club, many of whom also were leaders and members of the Vice Lords, for various crimes — including a September – October 2013 mass murder plot against a rival organization of the Phantoms, and the September 2013 shooting of a member of another rival organization. Among those eight convicted defendants was Antonio Johnson, aka “MT” or “MisterTony,” the National President of the Phantoms and the “Three-Star General” over the Vice Lords in Michigan. On September 8, 2015, Johnson was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Also, on January 13, 2015, Christopher Tibbs, a.k.a. “Chief Fatah,” the leader of the Michigan branch of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords, was sentenced to almost 29 years in prison for his role in helping plan an armed robbery of a Little Caesars restaurant in Redford, in September 2013. This case marked the first time that the federal criminal street gang enhancement was charged in the Eastern District of Michigan.