Feds charge 11 in drug and gun conspiracy case linked to gang _lowres

Alfred Cobbins, left, and Jawan Fortia

Authorities rounded up nine of 11 men charged in a federal indictment that was unsealed Friday, the latest salvo of a multiagency law enforcement effort to crack down on violent street gang activity in New Orleans.

Although the indictment doesn’t state it, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office said the 11 men are members or associates of the Young Melph Mafia, which authorities have described as a rival gang to the 110’ers, based near the old St. Thomas public housing development.

The YMM is named for the members’ stomping grounds around the former Melpomene public housing complex, now known as the Guste Homes. Authorities say the 110’ers are a collection of three gangs centered in the 10th and 11th wards.

The defendants “engaged in high-volume street-level drug dealing over the course of several years,” and those connected to the gang did so while armed, according to a news release on the indictment from Polite’s office.

New Orleans police and agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were busy Friday morning making arrests in the case.

One of the 11 men named in the indictment, Jeffrey Wilson, was charged in federal court last month with three counts of distributing crack.

The latest indictment supersedes the earlier one charging Wilson. It outlines a cocaine and firearms conspiracy related to crimes beginning in 2007 and ending with an allegation that Wilson dealt more than an ounce of cocaine on May 30.

Wilson is the only one charged in the last two of the five counts, both related to alleged cocaine dealing.

Charged along with Wilson were Jacobi “Co” Boyd, Alfred “Al” Cobbins, Jawan “Tittie” Fortia, Deontre “Soulja” Hills, Ruben “Rue” Geiger, Shawn “Gunner” Gracin, Dedrick “Roy” Keelen, Delwin “Poo Stupid” McClaren, Bryan “Killer” Scott and Darius “D-Man” Williams.

According to Polite’s office, all of the defendants face a minimum of five years in prison if convicted.

Gracin and Cobbins are the only defendants charged in the third count, for alleged use of a firearm related to a drug-trafficking crime. They each face a minimum 10-year prison term if convicted.

Cobbins and Fortia were still at large Friday afternoon, Polite’s office said.

Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office has been prosecuting a group of 15 alleged members of the 110’ers since a state grand jury last year handed up a sweeping, 51-count state racketeering indictment. About half of them have pleaded guilty.

One alleged 110’er, Demond “Lil D” Sandifer, was convicted by an Orleans Parish jury Wednesday of committing a 2011 murder “in furtherance” of street gang activity.

Authorities have pinned 15 murders on the 110’ers, including the killing of 5-year-old Briana Allen and 33-year-old Shawanna Pierce in a Central City shooting spree on May 29, 2012. Authorities say Sandifer and three others were involved in that shooting, in which they were allegedly targeting YMM members.

“This indictment is evidence that narcotics and firearms crimes are a dangerous mixture and will not be tolerated in our community,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Phillip Durham in a statement. The investigation and roundup Friday involved ATF agents, NOPD officers and other agencies involved in the Multi-Agency Gang Unit, established in late 2012 under an initiative of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents also helped in the investigation, according to Polite’s office.

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.