Federal authorities to date have arrested 15 individuals allegedly associated with the drug trade and various criminal activity in and around Nashville.
The arrests followed a 13-count federal indictment filed last Thursday charging 17 people, including 11 Vice Lords gang members, for allegedly engaging in a conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, cocaine and marijuana. The indictment also alleges some of the gang members committed violent acts such as murder and attempted murder, assault and robbery as part of the alleged drug conspiracy in Davidson, Putnam and Wilson counties dating back to July 2008.
Those indicted on drug conspiracy charges include Jessie Lee Allen, 24, James Bean, 27, Jeffery Jermaine Benson, 28, Brad Eliot Benedict, 34, Marcus Antwan Carey, 31, Ricky Fenn Jr., 27, Cameron Vintez Hastings, 26, Jermaine L. Jackson, 34, Charles Houston Mount Jr., 29, Corey Dregis Neal, 40, Raytheon Tyeaze Neal, 27, Christopher Nicholson, 34, Sterling Reneva Rivers, 24, Monique Smith, 40, Orlando Steverson, 29, and Maurice Lawson Thompson, 24.
Allen, Bean, Benson, Mount and Rivers were also indicted on related federal firearms charges.
If convicted, those indicted face a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
In addition, Kevin Dwayne Thompson, 25, of Murfreesboro, was indicted on charges of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Last Friday, law enforcement agents began rounding up and arresting those charged. Only Jeffery Benson, 28, and Sterling Rivers, 24, remained at large as of Monday afternoon. The FBI urged anyone with information on their whereabouts to call at 615-232-7500 or local law enforcement.
"The message today is simple. If you belong to a gang and engage in illegal conduct local, state, and federal law enforcement will find you, infiltrate your organization, arrest you and prosecute you,” U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin said at a Monday afternoon press conference.
Martin added that the case shows that “sadly no community in Tennessee is immune from gang activity.” The majority of those arrested lived in Lebanon, according to the government, with the rest coming from Cookeville, Decherd, Murfreesboro and Nashville.
Keith Moses, FBI assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Memphis Division, said Friday’s arrests should serve as a “wake-up call for gang members … who use the I-40 corridor as their personal playpen,” referring to how those charged used Interstate 40 in an attempt to evade law enforcement.
“It’s a deterrent factor is what we’re looking for,” Moses said. “Whether or not we’re going to have somebody come along and replace these individuals, we’ll have to see that in the future.”
Other allegations include that those indicted possessed and sold firearms and ammunition, regularly held organizational meetings, robbed rival drug dealers of drugs and money, and used drug proceeds to pay bail amounts and attorneys’ fees when members were arrested.
The investigation was conducted by members of the FBI, the Lebanon Police Department, the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, the Sparta Police Department, the Cookeville Police Department, the White County Sheriff’s Office, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, the Metro Nashville Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Braden H. Boucek is representing the government in the case.