Gang Leader Convicted in Federal Court

US ATTORNEY’S OFFICE FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA

A federal jury found Maurice Antonio Kent guilty of RICO Conspiracy, violent crime in aid of racketeering, discharging a firearm during the commission of those violent crimes, and possession of a firearm as a convicted felon.

“The 135 Pirus gang is a violent criminal organization whose members committed a multitude of crimes, including the horrific execution of a 17-year-old witness,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “Kent and his fellow gang members demonstrated an absolute disregard for human life and have now been brought to justice as a result of the strong partnership between federal and local law enforcement. This case, which culminated in a jury verdict convicting Kent of all charges, reflects our office’s resolve to tirelessly investigate and prosecute gangs who drive violence in our communities.”

“The brutal and tragic violence perpetrated by Kent and his fellow gang members is completely shocking and deplorable,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “With this conviction, Kent will no longer be able to commit senseless violence and homicidal acts on our streets. The FBI remains unwavering in our resolve to work with our partners to ensure that individuals like Kent are held accountable for their crimes and to eliminate gang violence from our communities.”

“Gang and organized crime have no place in our community,” said Brookhaven Police Deputy Chief Brandon Gurley. “Organized crime knows no boundaries, and neither should we. The collaboration with the U.S. Attorney’s Office was instrumental to ensure that Kent and his associates were all held accountable for the violent crimes they committed in our city and throughout Georgia.”

“In reference to this investigation, I’d like to credit the Violent Repeat Offender Program (VRO) which is a program conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and has been in place for many years,” said Cartersville Police Chief Frank McCann. “The VRO program puts federal, state, and local law enforcement officers together monthly to take violent repeat offenders off our streets. Positive results when we all work together!”

According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: The 135 Pirus gang originated in Compton, California, and has a national presence, including in the Northern District of Georgia. Kent was a gang leader in northwest Georgia with leadership authority over members in the vicinity of Cartersville and Rome, Georgia. The 135 Pirus are governed by a set of rules, which, among other commands, prohibit its members from cooperating with law enforcement.

In the early morning hours of May 13, 2017, an argument occurred outside a Brookhaven nightclub between a California-based 135 Pirus gang member and a rival gang member. At that time, Kent fired multiple rounds into a crowd of people outside the club, critically wounding the other gang member as well as a club security guard. During his flight from the scene, Kent tossed the firearm from a vehicle just before he was apprehended by police. Soon after being arrested and while in custody, Kent learned that a 17-year-old fellow gang member, who may have witnessed the shooting, was interviewed by law enforcement. Kent believed he was “snitching.” Two days later, 135 Pirus gang members devised a plan to lure the teenager to Bartow County, Georgia, where they shot and killed him with Kent’s gun, leaving the boy’s body on a rural road.

The jury also heard evidence that eight months prior to the nightclub shooting, in September 2016, Kent committed a drive-by shooting of a man standing in his front yard in Cartersville, Georgia. After that shooting, Kent threw the firearm into Lake Allatoona. The FBI later recovered the gun from the bottom of the lake and matched cartridge casings and a bullet from the drive-by shooting to Kent’s firearm.

In addition to Maurice Antonio Kent a.k.a., “Savage Duze,” 32, of Cartersville, Georgia, a number of other 135 Pirus gang members and associates were previously convicted in this case, including:

• Christopher Nwanjoku, a.k.a. “Problem,” 30, a 135 Pirus leader from Lawrenceville, Georgia, was convicted of RICO Conspiracy;

• Jamel Dupree Hughes, a.k.a. “Savage,” 27, a 135 Pirus member from Atlanta, Georgia, was convicted of murder in aid of racketeering, use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence resulting in death, attempted murder in aid of racketeering, and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence;

• Cedric Sams, Jr., a.k.a. “Awall,” 29, a 135 Pirus member from Cartersville, Georgia, was convicted of murder in aid of racketeering and use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence resulting in death;

• Jennifer Foutz, a.k.a. “Rose,” 30, a 135 Pirus member from Acworth, Georgia, was convicted of murder in aid of racketeering and use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence resulting in death; and

• Michael Kent, a.k.a. “Wikked,” 32, a 135 Pirus associate from Atlanta, Georgia, who is Maurice Antonio Kent’s twin brother, was convicted of RICO Conspiracy.

In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders. The sentencing hearing for Kent and the other defendants will be scheduled at a later date.

This case is being investigated by the FBI Safe Streets Gang Task Force, with valuable assistance provided by the Brookhaven Police Department, the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office, the Cartersville Police Department, and the Georgia Department of Community Supervision.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jessica Morris, who serves as the office’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Co-coordinator, and Michael Herskowitz, Chief of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crime Section, are prosecuting the case.

Road Closure Announcement from GDOT

State Route 157 will remain closed until June 6 near the Georgia/Tennessee state line on Lookout Mountain. Crews are stabilizing the slope near the route and repairing a section of the road. The road closure was extended due to supply issues and additional work needed on the project.

WHEN: Until June 6
WHERE: SR 157 will be closed about half a mile from the state lineDETOUR: Motorists traveling north will take SR 157 to SR 136 and head east to SR 193, which they will then take into Tennessee. Southbound traffic from Tennessee will take SR 193 into Georgia then turn west onto SR 136 before taking SR 157 north.

Jeff Lewis Back in State Senate Race

Jeff Lewis is back in the contest for State Senate.

Late last week, Georgia Administrative Court Judge Charles R Beaudrot recommended Lewis’s candidacy be invalidated.

Beaudrot wrote that Lewis had not made the correct filings with respect to his campaign finances by the required deadline

The Secretary of State’s office then went along with the recommendation to disqualify Lewis.

On Thursday, the Fulton County Superior Court stayed the decision by the Secretary of State’s Office, pending an appeal by Lewis.

Attorneys for Lewis argue the new state law used to disqualify him is unconstitutional.

Lewis, Derek Keeney, and incumbent Chuck Hufstetler are is in a three-person contest in the Republican Primary for the 52nd District State seat.

WBHF/WRGA/Compiled

Law Enforcement Participates in High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Training

NEWS RELEASE

On April 26, 2022, a delegation of senior law enforcement officials traveled to El Paso, Texas, for two full days of training with law enforcement on the U.S. and Mexico border. The delegation included representatives from city, county, and state agencies in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The trip was sponsored by Atlanta-Carolinas High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (AC-HIDTA).

The High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) is a grant program created by Congress in 1988 and administered by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. There are currently 33 HIDTA programs covering all 50 states that are directed and guided by executive boards of federal and state/local law enforcement leaders. The program sponsor for this trip, AC-HIDTA, is led by Executive Director Dan Salter, retired Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta Division. The 2022 Executive Board Chairman is Sandy Springs Police Department (GA) Chief Kenneth DeSimone. Part of the AC-HIDTA Program’s mission statement is to achieve measurable success in improving public safety and wellbeing by disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking and money laundering organizations through intelligence-driven multi-jurisdictional operations in Georgia and the Carolinas.

During the April trip, law enforcement executives met with their counterparts from West Texas and New Mexico HIDTAs, El Paso Police Department, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety (State Police), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Department of Homeland Security. AC-HIDTA members were able to see first-hand the overwhelming issues of illegal narcotics and human smuggling taking place on the New Mexico and Texas borders with Mexico.

Several law enforcement representatives reflected on this border experience with the following quotes:

“The recent trip to the Southwest border was eye-opening and explains why this country is in the throes of an opioid epidemic.  Because an overwhelming supply of deadly, illegal drugs are crossing into our communities daily, we must secure our borders to protect American families.” Major Frank O’Neal, South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED)

“If we fail to secure our borders, every sheriff in America will become a border sheriff. What comes through the borders doesn’t stay there. It comes to all communities in America.” Sheriff Sam Page, Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office (NC)

“The time our group spent in El Paso, Texas, and at our Southern Border was invaluable. The insight gained from our men and women on the frontlines attempting to ensure our borders are safe was very eye-opening, to say the least. We were able to bring back numerous Law Enforcement intelligence resource information from our partners with HIDTA and the DEA to use in our organizations which will greatly assist us with the hard work it takes to continue to improve the Quality of Life for the communities we serve.” Chief Mark Mitchell, Johns Creek Police Department (GA)

Arrest Made In Connection With Canton, GA Shooting Incident

Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Press Release –

Cherokee Sheriff’s deputies responded to a “shots fired call” Tuesday afternoon, May 10, on Carmichael Circle in the Carmichael Farms subdivision. When deputies arrived, they observed five shell casings in the roadway.

Deputies made contact with the homeowner who was inside the home at the time of the incident. The homeowner advised she had no idea who would have shot at her house or why.

The home was struck five times. One of the rounds entered through a window, and the bullet was located in a walk-in closet. No one inside the home was injured.

A light blue Mazda 6 was captured on video driving by the house as the shots were fired.

Detectives began an investigation into the incident and were able to identify a possible suspect who resides in Cartersville, Ga.

Friday afternoon, CSO detectives and the Cherokee County Multi-Agency SWAT team went to a residence on Catherine Way in Cartersville where they arrested 29-year-old Timothy Gregory.

Three firearms were located inside Gregory’s home, one matched the caliber of the shell casings located on Carmichael Circle. The motive of the shooting remains under investigation.

Gregory went to high school with one of the owners of the home, but it doesn’t appear they have had any contact since that time.

Gregory is charged with Aggravated Assault, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, Discharging a Firearm near a Road, Criminal Damage to Property 1st Degree, and Unauthorized Use of a License Plate. He is currently in the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center without bond.

MARIETTA MAN CHARGED IN MASSIVE PPP FRAUD SCHEME

Carl Delano Torjagbo, a/k/a Karl Lucius Delano, has been arrested on federal bank fraud and money laundering charges arising from a scheme to defraud a bank by obtaining a $9.5 million Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan in the name of a fictitious company and then allegedly using the loan proceeds to upgrade his personal lifestyle.  The PPP is a federal loan program intended to help small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic by providing them with funds to cover certain payroll costs, including benefits, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities.

“This defendant allegedly stole millions of dollars in taxpayer money intended to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “We will continue to investigate and charge anyone who fraudulently obtains these critical funds and uses them for their own personal gain.”

“The FBI and our partners will not tolerate anyone who misdirects federal emergency assistance intended for business who actually need it to stay operational,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Torjagbo’s fraud was particularly egregious, and we will make sure he is held accountable accordingly.”

“The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration aggressively pursues those who endeavor to defraud programs afforded to the American people under the CARES Act,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). “We appreciate the efforts of the Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners in this effort.”

According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges, and other information presented in court:  On February 16, 2021, Torjagbo signed a PPP loan application on behalf of Kremkov Industries LLC and submitted it to a bank, requesting a PPP loan in the amount of $9,554,425.00. To be eligible for a PPP loan, a business had to have been in operation on February 15, 2020. Kremkov Industries was not eligible for a PPP loan because it was not in operation on February 15, 2020. In fact, it was not even created until approximately ten months after that deadline had expired.

Torjagbo swore that the information he provided in the PPP loan application and in all supporting documents and forms was “true and accurate in all material respects.” Torjagbo certified that Kremkov Industries was in operation on February 15, 2020. Torjagbo stated that Kremkov Industries had 493 employees. Torjagbo also stated that Kremkov Industries had an average monthly payroll of $3,821,770. All of these statements were allegedly false.

In support of the PPP loan application, Torjagbo allegedly submitted fraudulent documents to the bank, including false tax returns (IRS Forms 940, 941, and 1040) and fake reports that listed the names and make-believe payroll information of the 493 people who purportedly worked for Kremkov Industries.

On March 29, 2021, as a result of Torjagbo’s alleged false and fraudulent representations, the bank transferred $9,554,425.00 in PPP loan proceeds to Torjagbo’s custody and control. The PPP loan proceeds were initially deposited into a bank account titled in the name of Kremkov Industries. Immediately before that deposit, the balance in that account was only $105.

On the PPP loan application, Torjagbo certified that all loan proceeds would be used only for business-related purposes as specified in the loan application and consistent with the Paycheck Protection Program Rules. Torjagbo acknowledged that he could be prosecuted if the PPP loan proceeds were knowingly used for unauthorized purposes.

On April 8, 2021, Torjagbo caused $3 million of the PPP loan proceeds to be transferred by check from the bank to a different bank. On that check, Torjagbo wrote a note stating that it was for “payroll.” But those funds were not used to pay “payroll.” Instead, those funds were allegedly used to pay Torjagbo’s personal debts and expenses, including the following:

•         $1,677,861.01 for his personal residence;

•         more than $837,000 for tractor-trailers to start a new trucking business;

•         approximately $300,000 to purchase other real estate;

•         $118,299.79 for a 2022 BMW M850XL;

•         $87,020 for a 2021 Land Rover Velar; and

•         more than $15,000 for plastic surgery.

The PPP is a federal loan program intended to help small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic by providing them with funds to cover certain payroll costs, including benefits, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities.

Carl Delano Torjagbo, a/k/a Karl Lucius Delano, 42, of Marietta, GA, was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker, on federal charges of bank fraud and money laundering, and was remanded to custody.  Torjagbo was indicted by a federal grand jury on May 10, 2022. Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges.  The is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation. In addition, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office provided valuable assistance in the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Phillips is prosecuting the case.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

Georgia News

Candidate Disqualified from Georgia Senate Race

WBHF Radio

One of the candidates in the Republican Primary for Georgia State Senate in District 52 is being disqualified.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has moved to disqualify District 52 State Senate candidate Jeff Lewis from the race.

The decision came less than 24 hours after Georgia Administrative Court Judge Charles R Beaudrot recommended Lewis’s candidacy be invalidated. Beaudrot wrote that Lewis had not made the correct filings with respect to his campaign finances by the required deadline, and the Secretary of State’s office upheld the decision.

On Friday afternoon, Lewis told WBHF in Cartersville his legal team was already working on an appeal.

“Obviously, we disagree with that decision and we have an appeal filed to the Fulton County Superior Court where these matters are generally heard,” Lewis said during a phone call.  “I feel very confident in the appeal process because, in that venue, my lawyers can argue the constitutionality of the case and also present where this matter has been resolved and corrected. So we feel very confident that, when the judges hear that argument of constitutionality and that we have provided correction, they will rule in our favor.”

Ballots are preserved for 22 months in case court battles continue, and notices will be erected at polling places to alert voters of the ballot change. If Lewis’s disqualification sticks, no votes cast in his favor will be counted.

Antique Alley Yard Sale in Progress

The giant, 2022 U.S. 11 Antique Alley Yard Sale is going on now through Sunday (May 12th–15th) – covering more than 500 miles between Meridian, Mississippi to BristU.S. 11 Antique Alley Yard Sale ol, Virginia with stops in DeKalb County, Alabama – Dade County, Georgia and Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Sellers, buyers, treasure seekers, and just plain ol’ curiosity seekers – all come out to see just what they’ll run across during this special event.

There’s something for everyone – but, be sure to exercise caution while traveling the route – make it a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.

WEIS