COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — Forty people have been charged in connection with the largest federal racketeering conspiracy in South Carolina history, according to United States Attorney Peter M. McCoy Jr.
The indictment alleges inmates with the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) — often by contraband cellphones — orchestrated murder, kidnapping, firearms distribution and an international drug operation, according to McCoy.
A grand jury charged 17 people with conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which was designed to eliminate organized crime. Several alleged crimes were charged under the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) statute.
Twenty-four of the 40 people were charged in an initial indictment in the case for conduct related to their roles in the enterprise’s drug trafficking operation, McCoy said.
“The defendants allegedly operated a violent and lucrative drug enterprise on behalf of the Insane Gangster Disciples while incarcerated,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt said. “The department is committed to investigating and prosecuting gang-related crimes no matter where they occur, including holding those accountable who engage in criminal activity while in prison.”
“To anyone who would try to harm the people of South Carolina with violence, intimidation or extortion: we are coming after you wherever you are,” McCoy said.
The case began in 2017 as an investigation into the trafficking of methamphetamine and the illegal sale of firearms. The investigation eventually became focused on the Insane Gangster Disciples (IGD), which is a branch of the nationwide gang, Folk Nation, according to McCoy.
The indictment says several IGD members — while they were inmates — ran a drug empire from prison with the assistance of people on the outside, McCoy said. Several members are accused of ordering violent retaliation for anyone who they thought were passing along information to law enforcement.
McCoy believes the violent acts, including murder and kidnapping, happened by IGD members outside of jail.
The 101-page indictment alleges members of the gang committed or conspired to commit armed robbery, extortion, arson, assault and battery, drug trafficking, money laundering, and obstruction of justice, McCoy said.
“As alleged in the indictments, illegal cell phones enabled these inmates to operate a sophisticated, international drug trafficking ring from inside prison walls,” Director of SCDC Bryan Stirling said. “We cannot ensure the public is safe from criminals until states are allowed to jam cell phone signals. We need Congress to act on this pressing public safety issue and schedule a hearing on the Cellphone Jamming Reform Act.”
The following people have been charged for conduct related to their alleged roles in RICO conspiracy and/or related crimes:
- Matthew J. Ward (aka “Bones”), 36, of Lexington
- Rebecca Martinez, 33, of Lexington
- Cynthia Rooks, 52, of Lexington
- Richard Ford, 62, of Lexington
- Amber Hoffman, 26, of Lexington
- Samuel Dexter Judy, 29, of Lexington
- Brian Bruce, 48, of West Columbia
- Montana Barefoot, 25, of Lexington
- John Johnson, 36, of Gaston
- Kelly Still, 43, of Windsor
- Benjamin Singleton, 46, of Lexington
- Kayla Mattoni, 38, of Lexington
- Alexia Youngbllod, 38, of Lexington
- Clifford Kyzer, 35, of Lexington
- Kelly Jordan, 34, of Williamston
- Mark Edward Slusher, 46, of Lexington
- Robert Figueroa, 43, of WEst Columbia
- Tiffanie Brooks, 36, of Columbia
- Crystal Nicole Bright, 40, of Lexington
- Brittney Shae Stephens, 32, of Anderson
- Arian Grace Jeane, 26, of Greenville
- Lisa Marie Costello, 43, of Gaffney
- Aaron Corey Sprouse, 29, of Gaffney
- Matthew Edward Clark, 41, of York
- James Robert Peterson (aka “Man Man”), 32, of Gaffney
- Edward Gary Akridge (aka “G9 the Don”, “Eddie Boss”), 28, of Greenville
- Aaron Michael Carrion (aka “Cap G”), 28, of Lexington
- Heather Henderson Orrick, 33, of Greenville
- Virginia Ruth Ryall, 43, of Gastonia, North Carolina
- Lisa Marie Bolton, 32, of Dallas, North Carolina
- Catherine Amanda Ross, 28, of Gaffney
- Brandon Lee Phillips (aka “Lil B”), 36, of Gaffney
- Billy Wayne Ruppe, 55, of Gaffney
- Windy Brooke George, 21, of Gaffney
- Juan Rodriguez (aka “Fat Boy”), 40, of Woodruff
- Jonathan Eugene Merchant (aka “Merck”), 27, of Laurens
- Joshua Lee Scott Brown, 23, of Greenville
- Jennifer Sorgee, 36, of Easley
- Alex Blake Payne, 28, of Greenville
- Sally Williams Burgess (aka “Cricket”), 37, of Greenville
Ward, Peterson, Akridge, and Rodriguez were serving sentences in prison at the time they were accused of crimes, McCoy said.
Every person faces a potential penalty of life in prison. The people charged with murder in aid of racketeering and kidnapping in aid of racketeering also faces life in prison. Additional penalties apply for anyone charged with firearms crimes, drug crimes, robbery, and assault.
Law enforcement seized about 40 kilograms of methamphetamine, more than 130 firearms, and quantities of heroin and fentanyl, according to McCoy.