Gang members, associates indicted for racketeering, murder, drugs

Authorities rounded up more than two dozen people Thursday associated with a Gardere-area gang that has terrorized East Baton Rouge Parish for several years, law enforcement officials said.

The multiagency crackdown, the third of its kind on the “Big Money Block Boyz,” followed a Wednesday night grand jury indictment that charged 28 people — all gang members or known associates — with crimes ranging from attempted murder to racketeering to drug possession.

Some of those indicted were already in jail on other charges.

“We’ve got a lot of the key players,” East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said at a Thursday afternoon news conference held by city, parish and state law enforcement officials.

The crackdown marked the largest roundup of gang associates since leaders of the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project invited troubled youths to a “call-in” last April. There, prosecutors and other authorities offered the young people three options: Participate in treatment and other programs offered through BRAVE, give up on their criminal ways without BRAVE’s help or continue to commit criminal acts and face the maximum punishments allowable.

The Block Boyz ignored the warning, authorities said, leading to Wednesday’s indictment.

By Thursday afternoon, 27 of those people, including alleged killers, robbers and drug dealers, had been arrested.

“This is group violence and this is group drug-dealing,” said District Attorney Hillar Moore III, referring to the Block Boyz as a “criminal group” because officials have said the organization lacks the sophistication of traditional gangs.

About a year ago, a group of BRAVE officers told Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie they had a board he needed to see.

“They said, ‘This is going to be a problem that we need to address,’ ” Dabadie said, recalling when the officers notified him about the Block Boyz.

Dabadie said Wednesday’s indictment and subsequent roundup, which followed crackdowns on the gang in July and February, marked the fruition of that meeting.

Officials cautioned the investigation focusing on the Block Boyz remains active, and more arrests are possible. Also, if members of other gangs slip up, authorities have pledged to conduct similar crackdowns.

“This is not just a one-time thing,” Sheriff Gautreaux said. “We aren’t going to stop.”

In a 24-count indictment handed down Wednesday, a grand jury charged a number of the gang members and associates with racketeering, a wide-ranging statute that encompasses acts of committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit or soliciting, coercing, or intimidating another person to commit a range of crimes including murder, attempted murder, robbery, arson and many drug violations.

A racketeering conviction carries a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Among those charged in the indictment were six people arrested in a series of February raids as part of a crackdown on the Block Boyz.

Those six, each of Baton Rouge, were Timothy Prater, 18, also known as “Tim Boy” and “Lit Tim;” Demarcus “Marcus” Smith, 22; Marcus Carter, 27; Candice Wilson, 21; Marq Woodruff, 24; and Rasheedah Beloney, 27.

Prater was identified by authorities at the time of his arrest as a Block Boyz member.

All but two of the 19 people charged in the 24-count indictment are from Baton Rouge. The two who are not are Christopher “Big Money” Finister, 27, of St. Gabriel, and Tracy Sanchez, 24, of Brusly.

The district attorney described Finister as a mid-level drug dealer who allegedly deals primarily marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs.

“The individuals included in this (24-count) indictment represent involvement at all levels of the organization, from the leadership, to the street level dealers, to the enforcers,” Moore said.

Also charged in the indictment were John Goza, 26, and Davontay Ricks, 22, both of Baton Rouge, who are accused in the June 2012 Ned Avenue fatal shooting of Jermaine Vallery, 22. In addition, an indictment says Goza committed two other attempted killings.

Other men indicted Wednesday accused in attempted killings include: Kydris Womack, 26, who is accused in two of the same attempted killings as Goza, and Quinnton Walker, 20, who is accused in an April 2010 attempted killing.

All four men were among those rounded up Thursday, officials said.

A separate 15-count indictment charges nine people with racketeering, conspiracy and various drug offenses. Five are from Baton Rouge, three are from Denham Springs and one is from Walker.

Both indictments allege the activities took place from April 2007 up until last month.