Judge sentences 5 North Avenue Boys to prison

Convicted gang members get 25 to 40 years for roles in drug-dealing operation

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

The remaining leaders of the North Avenue Boys were sentenced in federal court yesterday, dealing a final blow to an especially violent illegal drug organization whose feud with a rival gang ravaged a slice of East Baltimore for years.

Prison terms of 25 to 40 years were handed to five gang members for their part in running a large-scale heroin and cocaine operation between 1996 and 2004. The lengthy sentences were tied to a plea agreement reached between the gang members and prosecutors in February.

"These sentences guarantee that these five defendants will serve the next several decades in federal prisons far from Baltimore, and from each other, removed from the east-side community they ravaged with drug trafficking and violence for years," Maryland's interim U.S. Attorney Allen F. Loucks said in a statement yesterday.

The well-armed East Baltimore street gang distributed and sold large quantities of heroin, cocaine and 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.

For his role, the gang's de facto leader, Shawn Henry, received 30 years in prison. Henry, 28, had his sentence reduced by 45 months for time served on a state conviction connected with the same case.

Codefendants London King, 24, Tyrell Fields, 34 and Ryan Ayres, 24, each received 25 years.

The fifth defendant, Dante Faulkner, 25, received 40 years in prison. He had his sentenced reduced by 44 months because of his current incarceration on related state charges.

All of the sentences handed down by U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz will be followed by five years of supervised release.

On any one day, prosecutors said, the North Avenue Boys bought and sold as many as 1,600 gel caps of heroin at $10 each.

Turf battles

The loosely affiliated group - individual street-level drug pushers often worked for a variety of dealers - was neither the most profitable nor lethal in the city's recent history, according to prosecutors.

The sentences reflected the difference. In a similar federal case last year, two members of the Lexington Terrace gang received life in prison without parole for a series of six drug-related homicides that began in 1999 and included the killing of one witness.

Still, the North Avenue Boys fought a turf war with a rival gang that terrorized the neighborhood, authorities said. Members spent much of 2000 and 2001 looking for rivals from a gang known as the Hot Boys or the Project Boys.

In addition to the sentences this week, four other North Avenue Boys and 13 members of the Project Boys have been convicted on federal drug conspiracy or related firearms charges in separate federal prosecutions.

The battles between the two gangs left at least five people dead. North Avenue members also mistakenly shot the wrong people.

History of shootings

They also engaged in shootings - including one on Memorial Day 2001 that injured a dozen people and killed one - and the brutal kidnapping and attempted murder of a woman associated with the rival gang.

In a joint state and federal investigation aided by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and officers and detectives from the Baltimore Police Department, prosecutors announced in July that they had charged seven men from Baltimore, all associated with the North Avenue Boys.

The indicted gang members included two men - Corey "Gutter" Grant, 24, and Charles "Poppy" Laster, 26 - who are still at large. All seven were charged with drug conspiracy, firearms violations and carjacking, among other counts.

In January 2001, Henry, Faulkner, King, Ayres, 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.

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