Grand jury indicts 28 in alleged gang ring

Three, including alleged leader, are from Hagerstown

Three, including alleged leader, are from Hagerstown

February 26, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - A federal grand jury has indicted 28 alleged members of an arm of the Bloods gang on racketeering charges, conspiracy to distribute drugs and firearm violations, authorities said Monday.

Three of those indicted, including alleged leader Steve Willock, were from Hagerstown, a U.S. Attorney's spokeswoman said in a news release.

Those indicted are alleged by authorities to belong to a chapter of the gang called Tree Top Pirus, with a subset of women known as "The Pirettes," formed around 1999 at the Washington County Detention Center in Hagerstown.

The indictment was unsealed Monday.

Michelle Hebron, charged in the October 2007 shooting death of David Leonard Moore in Hagerstown, was named in count one of the indictment.


Moore's death is one of the acts alleged in the indictment to have been gang-related. His death was mentioned under the first count of the indictment, conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity. Four other homicides in Maryland are alleged to be part of the racketeering conspiracy.

Moore, 23, was found Oct. 5, 2007, lying at the base of a staircase in the first-floor hallway of the apartment building. He was shot in the head.

Hebron and Moore were acquaintances, local investigators have said.

In April 2007, Hebron wrote to Willock to confirm TTP rules as she understood them, among them: "never discuss Tree Top Piru business with no one, never deny being blood, never switch sets without probable cause, never let roscoe (police) get your knowledge, no homosexuality, attend all 911s (gang meetings), must pay all dues," according to the indictment.

In a May 2007 letter to Willock, Hebron wrote that she expected to be appointed TTP leader in Annapolis, according to information in the indictment. She also wrote, "(s)ure murder is necessary but positivity is powerful," the indictment alleges.

If convicted, Hebron and the 25 others charged with the racketeering conspiracy in count one could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Two of the 28 were not charged with racketeering.

Willock and another Hagerstown woman, Diane Kline, are named in both count one and count two of the indictment, conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.

Conviction on such a drug trafficking conspiracy carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Willock directed the gang's operations from prison, the indictment alleged. At one point, Willock was housed at Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md. He assumed a leadership role between 2000 and 2003, authorities said in a press release.

Most of the other defendants named in the indictment were from Baltimore and Baltimore County.

The Tree Top Pirus spread from California, where the Bloods originated in the 1970s, and has its Maryland roots in a local gang called Trey 8, which was formed at the Washington County Detention Center in 1999, "as a response to the aggression of better-organized inmates from Baltimore," according to the indictment.

In 2000, Trey 8 changed its name to Insane Red Devils/Tree Top Pirus.

The TTP arm of the Bloods grew, mostly from recruitment within Maryland's prisons, the indictment contends.

The Washington County Detention Center now focuses more on classifying inmates when they are booked, Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said Monday afternoon in a telephone interview.

Tattoos and other types of tagging are analyzed when inmates enter the jail. Authorities try to house competing gang members within different areas of the jail, and to separate members of the same gangs so they can't communicate, Mullendore said.

Recruitment among gang members in jail is stronger now than in the 1980s, and authorities have disciplinary procedures for those attempting to recruit new inmates to the gang system.

Inmates get involved with gangs for protection, camaraderie and a friendship, said a member of law enforcement who spoke anonymously due to the nature of his job.

Gang members sometimes target their own, he said. Often, the slayings that gang members commit are not the result of the turf wars, but rather they target one of their own because of money, drugs or power, he said.

The officer said the indictment "sends a strong message that it's (gang activity) not going to be tolerated," he said.

"When you become a member of a gang, you're a target for law enforcement."

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