For nine years, authorities say, the Harvey Hustlers street gang ran large quantities of marijuana, cocaine and heroin into West Jefferson, breaking the drugs down for street-level sales, making crack from powder cocaine and distributing it all through its network of gang members from an apartment on Aberdeen Drive.
Hustlers flaunted their “HH” logo on clothing, jewelry and on YouTube, formed subgroups called “Murder Squad” and “YBS” and terrorized West Jefferson neighborhoods through drug dealing, illegal guns, intimidation and murder.
One of its leaders, Robert “Lil Rob” Williams, allegedly paid to have one rival killed and gave the go-ahead on a second, only to have that target escape death by being arrested later that day.
In all, seven murders have been linked to members of the Harvey Hustlers — 39 of whom were just indicted by state and federal law enforcement agencies — along with shootings that injured five innocent bystanders, including a 1-year-old girl who was left paralyzed.
On Thursday morning, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and the FBI shed light on details that began trickling out last week with the filing of a sealed racketeering indictment of 21 suspects by Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick. The indictment was unsealed Thursday afternooon, laying out the foundation of a sprawling case against the Harvey Hustlers on charges of drug dealing, intimidation, illicit weapons, child abuse, attempted murder and murder.
That followed the federal indictments of another 18 members of the gang in February.
“In all my years in law enforcement, I can honestly say that the Harvey Hustlers gang was one of the most violent, vile criminal organizations that this organization has dealt with,” Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said at a joint news conference with the FBI Thursday.
According to the state indictment unsealed Thursday, the 21 suspects and their associates committed 51 acts that furthered the criminal enterprise. Racketeering prosecutions group together crimes allegedly committed over a period of time in furtherance of an illegal enterprise such as drug dealing.
Among those acts:
- Alcus “Bug” Smith, Nathan Carter and un-indicted coconspirators Marlon Mercy and Joseph Holmes were bringing in as much as 20 kilograms of powder cocaine from Texas a month when he was arrested on April 6, 2013.
- Three members, Paul “Buck” Smith, Richard “Hurk” Chess and Kerry “Truck” Reynard were seen dealing drugs on the street at least 50 times by witnesses.
- Stephanie Bradley allowed her residence and car to be sued to store and transport firearms and narcotics.
The violence wasn’t always directed outward, as infighting within the gang’s ranks often lead to shootings involving lower-level members and at least one attack on the group’s leadership.
All but three of the 39 indicted at either the state or federal level were in custody by Thursday.
In custody and named in the state indictment are Bryant Gumms, 24; Ellis Landix, 29; Paul Smith, 25; Kentaz Gayden, 27; Derrick Gumms, 26; Corey Trent, 25; Bradley, 43; Brandon Motton, 28; Charles D. Gumms, 21; Charlie A. “Bubba” Gumms, 19; Willie Thornton, 30; LaShawn “Bald Head” Davis, 31; Davante Robertson, 21; Rasheed Smith, 24; Williams, 33; Alcus Smith, 28; Chess, 24; and Reynard, 25. Carlnell Pierce, 35; Keitrel Gumms, 25; and Carter, 30, are still at large.
Those charged in the federal indictment are Harry Smoot, Lance “Life Taker” Singleton, Frankie Hookfin Jr., Ray Woodruff, Isaac “Ike” Smith, Terrence “Streets” Kelley, Clifford Sonnier, Andre Addison, Joequell Lewis, Christopher Brown, Terrell Wade, Richard Thomas, Savannah Houston, Glen Houston, Denver London, Jarrin Harris, Joesia Wilson and Brittany Conner.
Smoot and Singleton are charged in federal court with fatally shooting 19-year-old Shanna Girod and 22-year-old Willie Odom on Aug. 18, 2012, documents show. Odom’s 4-year-old daughter and Girod’s 4-month-old son were sitting in the car with their parents when the victims were attacked at U.S. 90 and Lapalco Boulevard in Avondale. The children were not wounded.
The feds have also charged Kelley, Hookfin, Woodruff and Isaac Smith with fatally shooting Emeal Washington on Feb. 11, 2013. Washington died after being shot on August Avenue in Marrero.
Four days later, in Bridge City, 81-year-old Doretha Richardson died after being shot in her home. She reportedly was sitting with her grandson, his girlfriend and a 3-year-old girl; and Richardson did not appear to be for whom the bullets were intended. Smoot, Hookfin, Woodruff and Isaac Smith have been charged in federal court with killing Richardson while trafficking drugs.
Meanwhile, state authorities on Thursday said they charged Alcus Smith with the Nov. 16 second-degree murder of Donte Hall in Marrero. Hall died after being shot multiple times in the 2600 of Pelican Bay Boulevard.
They mentioned that at least two other murders in Jefferson Parish factored into their investigation: those of Danny Antoine on Oct. 3, 2008, and Albert Bullock on Jan. 22, 2011.
Reynard allegedly killed Antoine as punishment for the victim’s selling “bunk” cocaine on a street controlled by the Harvey Hustlers to one of the gang’s customers. Authorities suspect Williams paid a man named Raheem Robinson to kill Bullock, who was gunned down outside a Waggaman daiquiri shop.
In November 2013, Robinson pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter as well as conspiracy to commit murder in Bullock’s killing, state court records show. He has not yet been sentenced.
Authorities probing Bullock’s slaying charged Smoot with the tampering of evidence in the case. Accused of removing a gun from the scene of Bullock’s killing, Smoot — in exchange for a seven-year prison sentence — entered a so-called “Alford plea” in that case, meaning he did not admit any guilt but acknowledged there was a strong chance the evidence against him would’ve led to his conviction.
In yet another allegation in the state indictment, prosecutors say Williams was recorded on a Nov. 3, 2013, phone call ordering an unknown individual to murder a man named Tosh Toussaint.
Toussaint was arrested on the day of that phone call and eventually charged with cocaine and illegal weapon possession. Toussaint on Thursday had a tentative April 13 federal court trial date.
The state indictment does not charge either Reynard or Williams — who is accused of fleeing to Memphis, Tennessee, before his racketeering arrest — for their alleged roles in the killings of Antoine or Bullock, but the murders were wrapped into it as being done in furtherance of a criminal enterprise.
Even when it wasn’t deadly, the violence blamed on the Harvey Hustlers was no less devastating.
In an incident that had previously produced state charges but was absorbed in the racketeering indictment, Davis, Robertson and Charlie A. Gumms were accused of a shooting at the Lapalco Court Apartments in Harvey on April 22, 2013, that left three toddlers and two women in their 60s wounded.
One of the women answered a knock on the door that day, and two shooters posing as police fired an AK-47 and a handgun, the Sheriff’s Office has said.
Investigators believe the shooters’ two targets were in the apartment but were not hit. However, children ages 1, 2 and 3 as well as women who were 63 and 67 were struck. The 1-year-old — a girl — was paralyzed as a result.
Davis, Robertson, Charlie A. Gumms and Hookfin were later charged with five counts of attempted second-degree murder each. All had pleaded not guilty.
But in the state charges unsealed Thursday, Hookfin is described as an unindicted co-conspirator.
Normand called the Harvey Hustlers “an incredibly violent organization,” noting that the list of defendants would have been longer had some not been killed during the course of the investigation.
“This was not a run-of-the-mill, easy case to put together,” Normand said Thursday about a case that is notable for the sheer number of defendants implicated. It was “very, very difficult (and) brought us many different places many times.”
Normand would not provide any other details related to the investigation, and it was not clear the extent to which the racketeering case will curtail the activities of the Harvey Hustlers, though the sheriff’s comments Thursday suggested that, pending the outcome in court, law enforcement has delivered a significant blow.
“Any information that we gather relative to any folks loosely connected to this organization we intend to go after them as well,” Normand said. “The last thing that we would like to see happen is a resurgence of this organization.”