DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Northern District of Ohio

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Justin E. Herdman
, United States Attorney
Contact: Mike Tobin

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio Filed a Record Number of Violent Crime Indictments in Fiscal Year 2019 as Part of a Strategy to Help Drive Down Homicides and Fatal Overdoses

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio filed a record number of violent crime indictments in Fiscal Year 2019 as part of a strategy to help drive down homicides and fatal overdoses.

The office indicted 1,061 people in FY 2019.

That includes 308 people indicted for violent crime offenses, the highest number in the office’s records, which date back to 2004.

It also includes 456 people indicted for drug offenses – the highest number since 2005 and nearly double the amount of people indicted in just two years ago.

 “The revitalized Project Safe Neighborhoods program is a major success,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “It packs a powerful punch by combining advanced data with local leadership, further reducing violence in communities across the country and improving overall public safety. U.S. Attorneys continue to focus their enforcement efforts against the most violent criminals and work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal police. The Justice Department’s relationships across the board have never been stronger.”

“Our office is proud to demonstrate that we are doing what is necessary to help reduce violent crime in Northern Ohio,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said. “Thanks to the incredible work of our law enforcement partners, we are able to hold accountable people who point a loaded gun at someone while robbing them, sell the fentanyl and other drugs killing our neighbors, illegally have firearms after a criminal conviction, or any of the other types of crimes we handle in federal court.”

According to FBI’s Uniform Crime Report released this week, the violent crime rate decreased nationally for the second consecutive year, down 3.9 percent from the 2017 numbers.

In Toledo, homicides are down 19 percent over this time last year. Homicides in Cleveland are down nearly 10 percent over the same period last year. Homicides are down slightly in Akron and Mansfield and are flat in Canton.

The Department of Justice in 2017 reinvigorated its nationwide violent crime reduction program, Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN). Drawing from academic research and decades of experience, the program is based on the fundamental principle that law enforcement agencies and communities must work together to address violent crime to make our neighborhoods safer.

PSN is an evidence-based violent crime reduction program that takes a collaborative approach to public safety. It leverages law enforcement and community partnerships, along with strategic enforcement efforts, to focus on the most violent criminals in the most violent locations.

Independent academic research found that PSN successfully reduced violent crime by an average of 4–20 percent, with reductions as high as 42 percent in certain locations. In 2017, the Department enhanced its PSN program, emphasizing data-driven strategies that focus on the most violent offenders, new technologies, and above all, partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders in local communities. With these changes, the program will be more effective than ever to help make America safer.

PSN brings together federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and community leaders to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in a community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.

The foundations of the PSN strategy are:

  • Community-Based –Each local program is contoured to fit the specific violent crime problem in that district. 
     
  • Targeted – Utilizes law enforcement and community intelligence, along with cutting-edge technology, to identify and target the most violent offenders for enforcement action. 
     
  • Comprehensive – Directs United States Attorneys to marry enforcement efforts with support of prevention and reentry strategies to truly combat violent crime in a lasting way. 

In the Northern District of Ohio, U.S. Attorney Herdman worked with local police, community partners, federal agencies and other partners to identify violent crime and narcotics trafficking as two of the most pressing threats to public safety. He established a Violent Crime Unit in the office and began working with others to implement strategies designed to identify, disrupt and prosecute those responsible for the firearms violence in Northern Ohio, as well as the drug traffickers and distributors who have played a role in the record number of overdose deaths in Ohio over the past several years.

He also took steps to strengthen existing partnerships and build new ones in an effort to prevent future generations from being drawn into a life of crime and/or addiction. We office also continues to work in partnership with others to implement comprehensive reentry strategies, so people returning home from prison are equipped with the tools to lead productive lives moving forward.

The impact of these strategies can be seen in both the number and types of cases the office has prosecuted in recent years.

Notable programs and cases related to PSN include:

Commercial Robberies

U.S. v. Ford and Rogers: A federal jury convicted two Cleveland men of brandishing firearms while robbing MetroPCS stores last year and shooting at an off-duty Cleveland police officer. Shawn Ford, 20, and Charles Rogers, 24, were each convicted on multiple counts of Hobbs Act robbery and using firearms during a crime of violence. They are scheduled to be sentenced October 9. Ford and Rogers robbed the MetroPCS story at 10959 Kinsman Road on March 21, 2018, at 11100 Lorain Ave. on March 25, 2018, and at 5853 Broadway Ave., on March 27, 2018, and attempted to the rob the store at 14701 Kinsman Road, also on March 27, 2018. Ford and Rogers fled from the store on Broadway after taking more than $1,000 from the register. An off-duty Cleveland police officer, who was a customer in the store, followed them out of the store. He identified himself as a police officer and ordered them to stop. One of the suspects began shooting at the officer and spent 9 mm shell casings were recovered nearby. About 30 minutes later, an officer saw a vehicle that matched the description of the car the suspects got into after shooting at the officer. The car was pulled over with Ford and Rogers inside. Inside the car was a spent 9 mm round, blue latex gloves and clothing that matched clothing worn by suspects in other MetroPCS robberies. Rogers was wearing an electronic monitoring device with GPS capabilities on March 21, the date of the first MetroPCS robbery. The GPS placed Rogers in the vicinity of the Kinsman Road store a few minutes before the robbery. Sometime later the GPS device was tampered with or taken off Rogers, according to court documents.

U.S. v. Griffin: An Akron man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the armed robbery of a Dollar General. Deonte Griffin, 29, previously pleaded guilty to Hobbs Act robbery, use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Griffin used a firearm to rob the Dollar General at 901 Copley Road in Akron on August 30, 2017. He possessed a .25-caliber pistol and ammunition despite a previous conviction for aggravated robbery which made it illegal for him to have a firearm, according to court documents.

U.S. v Liberty and Begin: A Northeast Ohio couple was sentenced to prison for 16 armed robberies or attempted robberies to fund their drug habit. Casey Layne Liberty, 31, of Amherst, and Daniel T. Begin, 33, of Cleveland, were both sentenced to 71 months on prison. Both were ordered to pay $6,598 in restitution. The pair previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank robbery, bank robbery, conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery and Hobbs Act robbery.

U.S. v. McKissack: A Maple Heights woman was sentenced to more than nine years in prison for robbing the same consignment store on Chagrin Boulevard on consecutive days, including using a firearm in the second robbery. Rachellette McKissack, 26, was sentenced to 114 months in federal prison. She previously pleaded guilty to two counts of Hobbs Act robbery and one count of using a firearm during a crime of violence. McKissack robbed the Cleveland Consignment Shoppe at 28790 Chagin Blvd. in Woodmere on November 15, 2018. McKissack again robbed the Cleveland Consignment Shoppe on November 16, 2018, this time using a firearm during the robbery, according to court documents.

Domestic Abusers with Firearms: The office has filed approximately 40 indictments related to people having firearms after having been convicted of domestic violence. Previously, the office averaged between four and six of these cases a year

U.S. v. Kraemer: A North Canton man was indicted for lying about numerous previous domestic violence convictions while purchasing firearms and for illegally having firearms after being convicted of domestic violence. Kraemer, twice in 2018, made false statements while purchasing firearms from Fin, Feather and Fur in Canton. He provided a false address and indicated he had not been convicted of the misdemeanor crime of domestic violence when, in fact, he had been convicted of domestic violence three times, according to the indictment. Kraemer possessed a Stoeger 12-gauge shotgun,  a Taurus 9 mm pistol and a Ruger .380-caliber pistol, according to the indictment.

U.S. v. Hych: A Cleveland man twice convicted of domestic violence was indicted for having a gun. Joshua Hych, 24, was indicted in federal court on one count of possession of a firearm after misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. Hych on Sept. 26 possessed a Taurus 9mm handgun, despite convictions for domestic violence in 2012 and 2015 Parma Municipal Court.

Firearms Trafficking and Robberies

U.S. v. Clark et. al.: Five Canton men were indicted for allegedly stealing dozens of guns from a firearms store in Canton in February. Four of the defendants were also indicted on charges of conspiring to steal firearms from another Canton firearms store. Robert Clark, Jr., 18, Marquelis Thomas, 21, Shymeik Barkley, 18, God Gibson, 18, and Jamaryon Frazier, 18, were each indicted on one count of theft of firearms from a licensed firearms dealer. Clark, Thomas, Gibson and Frazier are also indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit theft of firearms from a licensed firearms dealer. The five men are accused of stealing 22 firearms from Elite Security Consultants LLC on February 2, 2019. Clark, Thomas, Gibson and Frazier are also accused of conspiring to steal firearms from Stark Arms on February 2, 2019. The men parked at Stark Arms, on Cleveland Avenue S.W., wearing gloves and covering their faces and attempted to gain entry by throwing a heavy metal object at the business’s window, according to the indictment.

U.S. v. Riley:  Emmanuel Riley, 27, and Sevario Whitaker, 36, were each charged with theft from a federal firearms licensee and possession of a stolen firearm after allegedly stealing dozens of guns from a firearms store in Oregon, Ohio. A federal firearms licensee doing business as Towers Armory was burglarized on November 19, 2018. Approximately 46 firearms, six suppressors and four gun bags were missing from the store. Video surveillance from the store showed two men entered the store at approximately 3:24 a.m. after gaining access through the ventilation system on the roof and began removing firearms. They returned to the store several times in the early morning hours and continued removing firearms. Investigators obtained additional footage from a nearby business that showed the two men entered a Toyota Camry and drove away. A Toledo police detective recognized the vehicle as one that was used by Riley. The vehicle was towed from Riley’s mother’s house and Oregon police executed a state search warrant. Inside the vehicle they recovered gloves, a hat, a face mask and Friday the 13th-style mask consistent with what the burglars on the store surveillance footage were wearing. Whitaker was arrested on an outstanding warrant and also found to be wearing a sweatshirt consistent with what one of the burglars was wearing. A search of cell tower records indicates both Riley and Whitaker’s phones connected with a cell tower within one mile of the firearms store around the time of the burglary.

Targeted Enforcement

Operation We R CLE: The office was among several local, state and federal partners that participated in “Operation We R CLE.”  The operation took place from April 23 through June 29 of 2018 and netted nearly 400 felony arrests, 66 recovered firearms, numerous narcotics seizures and over $300,000 in U.S. currency. Homicides in Cleveland dropped dramatically in May 2018.

Operation RAVEN: Operation Repeat and Violent Offender Enforcement pairs Cleveland Police with members of the FBI, Ohio Adult Parole Authority and others to identity career criminals. This year is has resulted in more than 130 felony arrests and more than 80 weapons seized. Fifteen of those have been accepted for federal prosecution.

Straw Purchasers

U.S. v. Ligon: Marshyia S. Ligon, 20, of Clevleand, was indicted on one count of making a false statement in the acquisition of a firearm for making a straw purchase from a gun store in Eastlake of a rifle that was later used in the attempted robbery of a credit union. Ligon made false statements on Oct. 4, 2017 when she purchased a Smith & Wesson M&P 15, 556 caliber rifle bearing the serial number TH11301 from Sherwin Shooting Sports, 33140 Vine Street in Eastlake. Ligon falsely stated she was the actual buyer of the rifle when, in fact, she was not the actual buyer of the firearms, according to the indictment. The firearm was recovered one week later at the Willoughby Eastlake Schools Credit Union, where it was used in an attempt to rob the credit union.

U.S. v. Spencer: Tyla Spencer, 22, of Cleveland, was sentenced to three months in prison A Cleveland woman was sentenced to three months in prison for making a straw purchase of two firearms that were purchased with money from a robbery and used in additional violent crimes. Spencer went on January 2, 2018, to the Cleveland Armory in Valley View with Lashawn Davis and a juvenile. Spencer bought them a Glock 9 mm and Glock .40-caliber handgun with cash that Davis and the juvenile got from robbing a check-cashing store in Cleveland the day before. Spencer falsely stated she was the true buyer of the firearms when, in fact, she was purchasing the firearms on behalf of the males. Davis and the juvenile then used the firearms in a bank robbery and carjacking in February, according to court documents and statements in court.

U.S. v. Derubba: Two people from Warren were named in a nine-count federal indictment for their roles in the straw purchase of firearms. Constance Derubba, 76, and Allen Reynolds, Jr., 35, were each indicted on four counts of making false statements during the purchase of a firearm. Reynolds also faces five additional counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. On four different occasions, Derubba knowingly made false and fictitious statements in relation to the purchase of firearms. She was counseled, aided and abetted by Reynolds in these purchases. She falsely stated she was the purchaser of the firearm when, in fact, she was purchasing the firearms for Reynolds, according to the indictment. Reynolds at various points possessed a Smith & Wesson 5.56-caliber rifle, a Glock .40-caliber pistol, another Glock .40-caliber pistol, a North American Arms .22-caliber revolver, and another Smith & Wesson 5.56-caliber rifle, despite a previous conviction for possession of cocaine, according to the indictment.

Carjackings

U.S. v. Coats: Cody M. Coats, 25, of Cleveland, was sentenced to 16 years in for firing a shotgun during a carjacking in Euclid. Coats used an Itahca short-barreled shotgun when he carjacked someone and stole their 2005 Chrysler Crossfire outside a Euclid bar on Aug. 14, 2017. He crashed the car on East 222nd Street near Lakeshore Boulevard following a police chase and was arrested, according to court documents.

U.S. v. Mack: An Elyria man who stabbed a woman during a carjacking was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. Johnny G. Mack III, 39, previously pleaded guilty to carjacking. Mack forced a woman out of her 2016 Nissan Altima while she was at a gas station on December 12, 2018. He pulled a knife and threatened to stab the driver as he pushed her into her car. Mack stabbed the victim, causing small puncture wounds to her legs, stomach and hands, according to court documents.

U.S. v. Davis: Lashawn Davis, 18, of East Cleveland, was indicted for a carjacking in Cleveland Heights and an armed bank robbery in Richmond Heights. Davis brandished a firearm on Feb. 4 when he took a 2016 Hyundai Elantra from someone on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights. He also brandished a firearm on Feb. 17 when he robbed the Dollar Bank on Wilson Mills Road in Richmond Heights, according to the indictment.

Narcotics Trafficking

U.S. v Blackshaw: Five people were charged in federal court after they were arrested with nearly 20 pounds of cocaine, fentanyl and approximately $1 million. Kenneth Blackshaw, 53, of Cleveland; Jorge Alberto Barrera, 43, of Mexico; Jorge Alberto Barrera Gutierrez Jr., 24, of Fresno, California; Miguel Angel Marquez, 44, of Fresno, California, and Donald Earl Knighten 43, of Bedford, were each charged in federal court with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute narcotics. Blackshaw, Barrera, Gutierrez, Marquez and Knighten were arrested on June 15 at 1538 Addison Road in Cleveland. DEA agents searched the house and found nine individually wrapped bundles of cocaine, as well as 32 bundles of cash. A second search warrant was served at Blackshaw’s home on East 85th Street with nearly 200 grams of suspected fentanyl and approximately 595 grams of marijuana recovered.

U.S. v. Wells: Twenty people were indicted in federal court for their roles in a conspiracy to obtain large amounts of heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues and sell the drugs to customers on the west side of Cleveland. Named in the 27-count indictment are: Alquin Wells, 37, of Sheffield Lake; Ronelle Davis, 28, of Sheffield Lake; Malcolm Collins, 46; Travon Gales, 24, of Maple Heights; Ronnie Edgell, 54; Lashaun Moncrief, 36; Matthew Kucera, 46; Amber Moore, 35, of Parma; Gloria Hrdy, 29; Patricia Truman, 28; Molly Medlik, 24; Cody Ray Lee, 25; Lisa Goforth, 27; Shaunna Collier, 23; Virginia May, 37; Tamie Seitz, 49; John Dickson, 39, of Brunswick; Elizabeth Gallagher, 30; Bobbi Boylan, 34, and Imani Nicholson, 23, of Sheffield Village. All are from Cleveland unless otherwise noted. All 20 are indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues.

U.S. v. Sanders: Six Akron men were sentenced to federal prison for their roles in a conspiracy to bring more than 200 pounds of methamphetamine from California and sell it in the Akron area. Ugunda Sanders, 46, was convicted following trial and was sentenced more than 15 years in prison. Rashaad M. Thomas, 41, was sentenced to more than 14 years in prison. Michael E. Davis, 49; was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. James E. Sanders, 52, was sentenced to 10 years in prison; Christopher J. Proctor, 51, was sentenced to more than three years in prison and Reuben Simmons, 32, was sentenced to less than three years in prison. All five previously pleaded guilty to their crimes related to methamphetamine distribution. Members of the conspiracy traveled between Cleveland and Los Angeles to obtain large amounts of methamphetamine, which they distributed in the Akron area, according to court documents.

U.S. v. McBeth: Three men from Northwest Ohio were indicted on drug conspiracy charges stemming from an investigation that resulted in the seizure of more than four pounds of cocaine, 20 firearms, three vehicles and more than $1.8 million in cash. Brooke McBeth, 39, Montrel Jackson, 34, both of Toledo, and Tyson Reed, 43, of Fostoria, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.

Firearms in Furtherance of Drug Trafficking

U.S. v. Stewart: Two men with prior homicide convictions were sentenced to prison for firearms and drug trafficking charges crimes. Maurice A. Stewart, 42, was sentenced to more than 18 years in prison. A jury previously convicted him of drug trafficking, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking and being a felon in possession of firearms. William W. Moore, 38, was sentenced to 63 months in prison. He previously pleaded guilty to drug and firearms charges. A third man, Jason E. Cousins, 47, was sentenced to 73 months in prison. Cousins was found guilty of a firearm offense following a trial. According to court documents and evidence presented in court: U.S. Marshals were searching for Moore, who was wanted on drug and firearms warrants out of West Virginia, when they tracked him to a home in Canton. A search of the home resulted in the recovery of nearly eight pounds of methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine, $10,904 in cash, two loaded handguns, a Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun, an AR-15 rifle and body armor. The evidence at trial connected all three men to items recovered at the residence. Moore was prohibited from possessing a firearm because of a previous conviction for murder. Stewart was prohibited from possessing a firearm because of a previous conviction involuntary manslaughter. Cousins was prohibited from possessing a firearm because of previous convictions for possession of cocaine and carrying a concealed weapon.

U.S. v. Hall: Two Cleveland men with a history of using firearms to commit crimes were indicted in federal court for their roles in a conspiracy to traffic fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and other drugs, as well as additional firearms crimes. Clayton Hall, 39, and Gregory D. Franklin, II, 42, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, and additional drug charges. Franklin is additionally charges with possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Hall and Franklin conspired together between February 2019 and April 30, 2019 to distribute 100 grams or more of a mixture of heroin and fentanyl analogues, as well as 500 grams or more of cocaine. Hall possessed with intent to distribute fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine at various times in 2018 and 2019. Franklin possessed with intent to distribute fentanyl analogues and cocaine on April 30, 2019. He also possessed a Taurus 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and 21 rounds of 9 mm that he used as part of his drug trafficking and despite a previous conviction for drug trafficking with a firearms specification, according to the indictment. Hall was previously convicted of kidnapping with a firearm and aggravated burglary with a firearm, according to the indictment.

U.S. v. Martin: A Cleveland man was sentenced to 30 years in prison for using a firearm while trafficking fentanyl, heroin and cocaine. Kernice Martin, 42, was sentenced to 360 months in federal prison. A jury found Martin guilty in April of four charges: possession with intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl; possession with intent to distribute cocaine; possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Martin was pulled over by Cleveland police for a traffic stop on June 15, 2018 and found to have 0.79 grams of a mixture of fentanyl and heroin, 8.41 grams of cocaine, a Taurus .40-caliber handgun and ammunition. Martin was prohibited from possessing firearms because of three previous convictions for drug trafficking and one previous conviction for drug possession, according to court documents.

Building Capacity

Strike Force: The City of Cleveland this summer approved financing clearing the way to break ground shortly on a building to house the Cleveland Strike Force, which will bring together more than 200 local police, federal agents and prosecutors to work side-by-side to strengthen public safety.  The strike force’s mission will be to disrupt and dismantle major criminal organizations and their subsidiaries trafficking narcotics, weapons, humans and the proceeds of their crimes.  Cooperative investigations will be focused on dissolving these organizations, their financial infrastructure, and the violence that accompanies their activities.

Public Safety Partnership: Both Toledo and Cleveland have been selected to participate in the Justice Department’s National Public Safety Partnerships program. This Justice Department program is a three-year engagement that seeks to leverage department assets in support of a local jurisdictions' commitment to drive down violent crime. DOJ works collaboratively with the police departments to provide training and technical assistance in areas such as crime analytics, emerging technology and community engagement.  Since 2017, the Justice Department has directed nearly $14.9 million in customized training and technical assistance to help build crime fighting capacity in PSP sites, including $6.6 million to support the FY 2019 sites through FY 2022.  PSP seeks to bring law enforcement stakeholders together to work collaboratively in reducing violent crime attributed to felonious firearm use, drug trafficking and human trafficking.

Community Partnerships

STANCE: Stand Together Against Neighborhood Crime Everyday was established in 2006, after Cleveland was one of six cities across the nation selected as a pilot program for a comprehensive anti-gang initiative. It consists of more than 40 representatives, including public officials, community leaders, educators, public safety and law enforcement, juvenile justice officials and, foundations, faith-based organizations and members of the private sector. The program targets specific high-risk neighborhoods in Cleveland by focusing on prevention, enforcement and re-entry initiatives. Strategies include promoting community-wide solutions to preventing gang violence, helping ex-offenders transition into productive community members and creating partnerships among law enforcement and other agencies to implement data-driven strategies to investigate and prosecute violent gang activity. STANCE and the U.S. Attorney’s Office is working in greater collaboration with the City of Cleveland’s Office of Prevention, Intervention and Opportunity. The city will play an even greater role in prevention efforts with the installation of social workers at the city’s 22 recreation centers to identify children with signs of trauma and connect them to services.

Working with youth: Members of office volunteer at the Boys and Girls Clubs, coach the mock trial team at Martin Luther King High School, teach the 3Rs program in the Cleveland Municipal School District, are in the process of establishing a volunteering and mentoring program with John Adams High School, and many other volunteer activities.

###

Columbus Field Division