For Immediate Release
Seven Manatee County Men Charged in Federal Racketeering Case Involving Six Murders
Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the unsealing of a 12-count indictment charging seven individuals, all of Manatee County, for their roles in a racketeering conspiracy involving murder, attempted murder, arson, robbery, drug trafficking, and other crimes. The attached summary chart identifies the individuals, charged offenses, and potential penalties. Anyone with information relevant to this case is encouraged to call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867) or email ATFTips@atf.gov.
According to the indictment, Jordan Rodriguez (24), Andrew Thompson (23), Alfonzo Churchwell (31), Juan Ortiz (24), Raymy Escoto (23), Phillip Uscanga (24), and Jesse Rodriguez (20) were part of an ongoing criminal enterprise in Manatee County that furthered their illegal activities by, among other things, using and threatening to use various levels of violence, ranging from simple assault to murder, and by concealing and destroying evidence of, and tampering with witnesses to, their illegal activities.
The indictment alleges that on January 1, 2016, Thompson shot and killed Demetrius Robinson and Florence Randall. On the same day, Jordan Rodriguez, Ortiz, Escoto, and Uscanga committed a drive-by shooting, killing Julio Tellez. On September 11, 2017, Churchwell shot and killed Earnestine Gardner. On January 13, 2017, Thompson shot and killed LaShawna Stevenson-Weeks and Berry Joseph.
The indictment also alleges that Jesse Rodriguez, Jordan Rodriguez, Andrew Thompson, and Alfonzo Churchwell used and maintained a drug premises.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has violated one or more of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, and the State Attorney’s Office for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Natalie Hirt Adams and Christopher F. Murray.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that has been successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. In October 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the reinvigoration of PSN and directed all U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to develop districtwide crime reduction strategies, incorporating the lessons learned since the program’s inception in 2001. In the Middle District of Florida, U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez coordinates PSN efforts in cooperation with various federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.