For Immediate Release
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
, United States Attorney
Duane A. Evans
Contact: Anna Christman
Second Young Melph Mafia Gang Member Sentenced to Life in Prison Following Convictions on RICO, Gun, Drug and Murder Charges
New Orleans Field Division
NEW ORLEANS – Acting U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that JAWAN FORTIA, a/k/a “Tittie” and “Wine,” age 24, of New Orleans, was sentenced today after having previously been found guilty of violating the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act “RICO” as well as drug conspiracy, firearms conspiracy, and murder charges. U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt sentenced FORTIA to serve life in prison.
In June of 2017, FORTIA, DEDRICK KEELEN, LIONEL ALLEN, BRYAN SCOTT and DELWIN MCLAREN were convicted following a 7-day trial. According to evidence presented at trial, FORTIA was a member of the “Young Melph Mafia” gang, also referred to as “YMM.” The YMM gang was initially formed in or about 2005 and continued to exist through 2014. During the course of the federal investigation into the gang, agents learned that the defendants controlled an area of Central City New Orleans along Martin Luther King Boulevard near the former Melpomene Housing Development. The gang, which started when the members were in their early teens, participated in a wide ranging conspiracy to distribute street level quantities of crack cocaine in Central City and participated in several acts of violence against rival gangs, such as the 110ers. The members of the YMM were associates of the members of the Allen family, who were also indicted and convicted in federal court in 2014. Three members of the 110ers gang were convicted on January 29, 2015, in Orleans Parish Criminal Court for the Briana Allen shooting.
The jury found FORTIA guilty of conspiracy to commit RICO violations, conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 280 grams of crack cocaine and a quantity of marijuana, conspiracy to possess firearms during and in relation to crimes of violence and drug trafficking crimes, assault with a dangerous weapon and one murder. Specifically, FORTIA was convicted of participating in the drive-by shooting death of Vennie “Funk” Smith that occurred on April 22, 2012, on Martin Luther King Boulevard.
FORTIA was one of eleven defendants originally charged in August of 2014 in a superseding indictment involving gun and drug conspiracies. Five YMM defendants pled guilty to the conspiracy charges and were sentenced. JACOBI “CO” BOYD was sentenced to 480 months of incarceration; ALFRED “AL” COBBINS was sentenced to 252 months of incarceration; SHAWN “GUNNER” GRACIN was sentenced to 270 months of incarceration; RUBEN “RUE” GEIGER was sentenced to 220 months of incarceration; DARIUS “D-MAN” WILLIAMS was sentenced to 156 months of incarceration; and DEONTRE “SOULJA” HILLS was sentenced to 96 months of incarceration. In August of 2015, federal RICO and murder charges were added against the remaining defendants in a second superseding indictment. JEFFREY WILSON pled guilty to only drug charges and was sentenced to 180 months of incarceration. DEDRICK KEELEN was sentenced to life plus 10 years last week after being convicted of multiple counts at trial. LIONEL ALLEN, BRYAN SCOTT, and DELWIN MCLAREN, who went to trial with FORTIA, are awaiting sentencing.
“The life sentence that was handed down today is another victory in the battle against violent crime for ATF, our law enforcement partners, and more importantly, the citizens of New Orleans,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Dana Nichols.
Acting U.S. Attorney Evans praised the work of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as part of the metro area’s Multi-Agency Gang Unit (MAG) in investigating this matter. As an integral component of NOLA FOR LIFE’s Group Violence Reduction Strategy, the MAG Unit consists of a partnership with New Orleans Police Department (NOPD); Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office (DA); Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office (OPSO); Louisiana State Police (LSP); Parole Board of the Louisiana Department of Corrections; United States Attorney’s Office (USAO); Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); United States Marshal’s Service (USMS); and the United States Probation & Parole Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Assistant United States Attorneys Edward Rivera, Nolan Paige, and Nicholas Moses were in charge of the prosecution.