Members of gang plead guilty

5 North Ave. Boys reach deals on eve of U.S. trial

They'll spend decades in prison

February 08, 2005|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,SUN STAFF

Five members of the North Avenue Boys, a gang in East Baltimore that used multiple murders, indiscriminate shootings and a brutal kidnapping to protect their narcotics-trafficking network, pleaded guilty to drug-related charges in federal court last night and agreed to decades-long prison sentences.

According to plea agreements reached with the Maryland U.S. attorney's office on the eve of their trial, the men admitted their roles in the gang in exchange for prison sentences ranging from 25 years to 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

The well-armed East Baltimore street gang distributed and sold 30 kilograms of heroin, 50 kilograms of cocaine and 1.5 kilograms of crack cocaine in a few blocks around an old schoolhouse in the 2000 block of E. North Ave. and other stash houses on surrounding streets from the mid-1990s until early last year.

On any one day, the North Avenue Boys bought and sold 120 grams - or between 800 and 1,600 $10 gel caps - of heroin, according to prosecutors.

But turf wars with a rival gang began in the fall of 2000, according to prosecutors' original indictment.

The battles led to at least five killings, 22 shootings - including one on Memorial Day 2001 that injured a dozen and killed one - and the brutal kidnapping and attempted murder of a woman associated with the rival gang, known as the Hot Boys or the Project Boys.

In a joint state and federal investigation that used agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and officers and detectives from the Baltimore Police Department, prosecutors brought charges in July against seven men from Baltimore: Shawn "Henbo" Henry, London "Bird" King Jr., Tyrell "Chino" Fields, Ryan "Buddy Love" Ayres, Corey "Gutter" Grant, Dante "Cool Don" Faulkner and Charles "Poppy" Laster. They were charged with drug conspiracy, firearms violations and carjacking, among other counts.

Five of them entered guilty pleas after a jury selected yesterday for their trial was sent home for the day. The gang members are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz in early April.

Prosecutors said yesterday that Laster and Grant remain at large.

Henry, 28, whom prosecutors described as a leader of the somewhat informal gang, pleaded guilty to one count of drug conspiracy. He and his co-defendants each could have received life in prison without parole on many of the charges, but in a deal with federal prosecutors, Henry will receive 30 years in prison.

In January 2001, Henry, Faulkner, King, Ayers, Grant and Laster carjacked and kidnapped Larhonda Lomax, a rival's wife, and threatened to kill her unless she told them where they could find her husband, according to the federal indictment.

Later, the indictment said, Henry shot her and then drove her white Jeep Cherokee to West Baltimore and set it on fire. Lomax survived the shooting.

Henry's attorney, Arcangelo M. Tuminelli, told Motz yesterday that Henry is currently in prison on two other state-court convictions - including 10 years for an attempted murder - connected to his drug-gang activity. The convictions are to be served concurrently, according to the terms of the plea agreement.

Fields, 34, and Ayres and King, both 24, all pleaded guilty to a charge related to the Nov. 9, 2000, shooting near Washington Streetand Lafayette Avenue that wounded two men believed to be from the Hot Boys.

According to their plea agreements, all three will spend 25 years in prison without parole.

The fifth defendant, Faulkner, pleaded guilty to two charges related to the drug conspiracy and a firearms charge in return for a prison sentence ranging from 35 to 40 years.

The group would drive around looking for rival gang members to kill, the indictment says.

The takedown of the North Avenue Boys was announced in July during a joint news conference with former Baltimore police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark and State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy.

At the time, federal authorities said part of the reason why they intervened is because of the struggles city prosecutors had faced. Most, if not all, of the men who pleaded guilty yesterday had faced state prosecution on murder and other charges, escaping conviction or being found guilty only on reduced counts.

"The people in Baltimore City should know we give a damn," then-Maryland U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio said last summer. "And they should know that these young men, they're finished."

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