Big Money Block Boyz gang case to again go before appellate court in Baton Rouge _lowres

Advocate Staff Photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Members of the "Big Money Block Boyz" are led from a staging area to a transport bus at the Louisiana State Police Headquarters in April 2014. A multi-agency operation early morning "round-up" operation netted 24 arrests. The "Big Money Block Boyz" are a criminal organization based out of the Gardere area.

An alleged member of the violent Gardere-area "Big Money Block Boyz" street gang pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal gun- and drug-conspiracy charges that stemmed from an incident in the fall while he was free on state drug, attempted murder and conspiracy charges.

Davontay "Kin Folks" Ricks, 25, of Baton Rouge, is one of four alleged Block Boyz members facing federal charges related to the November incident in which police responded to a shooting and discovered a stolen handgun and stolen assault rifle, powder and crack cocaine, marijuana and a digital scale inside a Mariner Drive apartment in Gardere.

Also charged in that incident are Timothy Prater, 21; John Goza III, 29; and Kydris Womack, 29, all of Baton Rouge. Federal court documents indicate Prater is scheduled to plead guilty later this month.

Ricks, Prater, Goza and Womack also were among 19 alleged Block Boyz members or associates indicted by an East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury in 2014 on a host of charges ranging from gun and drug counts to conspiracy and attempted murder.

The 2014 crackdown marked the largest roundup to date of gang associates in East Baton Rouge and represented the first major prosecution related to the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination Project, or BRAVE.

A number of those 19 defendants have pleaded guilty, including Womack, who did so in May, to murder-conspiracy and firearms charges and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Charges against a half-dozen of the original defendants were dismissed.

The remaining defendants from the 2014 indictment are Ricks, Prater, Goza and reputed Block Boyz leader Christopher "Big Money" Finister, 30, of St. Gabriel.

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In the more recent federal case, Ricks pleaded guilty Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick to two charges: conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana; and conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. He faces up to 20 years in prison on each charge.

Dick ordered a presentence investigation report but did not set a sentencing date for Ricks, who wore a West Baton Rouge Parish Prison jumpsuit and was represented by lawyer Lane Ewing Jr. The judge said Ricks will remain in federal custody.

In explaining the factual basis for Ricks' plea, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Piedrahita told the judge that Prater was arguing Nov. 16 with his girlfriend outside an apartment in the 1900 block of Mariner Drive when Ricks joined in and struck the woman. Prater then retrieved a rifle from behind the apartment complex and fired shots. No one was injured.

When police arrived later with a search warrant, they ordered Prater, Ricks, Goza and Womack out of the apartment and found the stolen weapons, drugs and scale inside, Piedrahita said. Some drugs were located under a water heater, he said, and an AK-47 assault rifle was discovered under a mattress in a bedroom.

Ricks' state charges in the Block Boyz case are two counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count each of conspiracy to commit second-degree murder and possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.