NEW ORLEANS — A man once described by police as one of New Orleans’ most dangerous criminals and several alleged associates have been indicted on charges they operated a violent drug ring that murdered rivals, intimidated witnesses and generated millions of dollars.
A federal racketeering indictment unsealed Friday against alleged ringleader Telly Hankton and 12 other defendants includes murder charges stemming from the killings of four people: Darnell Stewart, Jesse Reed, Hasan Williams and Curtis Matthews.
At a news conference last year following Matthews’ slaying, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he was “sending a message” to Hankton and his family that authorities would be “coming to get you.”
Hankton, 36, already is serving a life sentence for a murder conviction in state court. He and four other defendants now face federal charges that are punishable by a death sentence, although the Justice Department hasn’t decided whether to seek it in the case.
Hankton’s mother, Shirley Hankton, 58, is charged with conspiring to launder money for the drug ring and lying to a federal grand jury.
Prosecutors are seeking to seize at least $43.2 million in assets from the defendants if they are convicted.
The 22-count indictment says Telly Hankton and a cousin, Thomas Hankton, 36, have led the drug ring based in the city’s Uptown neighborhood since 1996. Another cousin, Troy Hankton, 28, and Walter Porter, 37, are identified in the indictment as gunmen for the operation.
Telly Hankton and another cousin, Andre Hankton, 35, are charged with murder in aid of racketeering in the May 2008 death of Stewart. Telly Hankton was convicted in state court last year of fatally shooting Stewart after a first trial ended with a hung jury.
Porter is charged with shooting and killing Matthews, the brother of a man who had testified against Telly Hankton.
Telly Hankton, Porter and Kevin Jackson, 39, are charged in the June 2009 shooting death of Reed. Porter and Thomas Hankton are charged in the July 2009 fatal shooting of Williams, who witnessed Reed’s killing.
Also charged in the case are: Nakia Hankton, 34; George Jackson, 38; Derrick Smothers, 34; Netthany Schexnayder, 33; Sana Johnson, 37; and Terrell Smothers, 36.