More than two dozen people were arrested this week in connection with charges including drug trafficking and financial crimes, U.S. Attorney Sayler A. Fleming said Thursday.
The arrests by the U.S. Marshals, federal agents, and local police follow a series of grand jury indictments. Thirty-four people have been charged in connection with the investigation, most in the past few weeks. During the arrests and associated court-approved searches, officers and agents recovered a large quantity of fentanyl, pounds of methamphetamine, firearms, and cash.
In detention hearings Thursday, prosecutors described the arrestees as members or associates of the Black Mafia Family.
A motion seeking to have one of the defendants jailed until trial says the BMF holds itself out as a drug trafficking and money laundering organization distributing large quantities of narcotics in the St. Louis area and elsewhere. One of the defendants, Chad Brown, calls himself the “Junior Boss” of the BMF, another detention motion says and has discussed drug trafficking by the BMF in multiple videos posted on various social media platforms.
“These indictments and arrests targeted an organization that did not just limit their crimes to drug trafficking,” said U.S. Attorney Sayler A. Fleming. “Others have been accused of laundering money for the organization or taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to fraudulently obtain thousands of dollars in loans that were intended for struggling businesses and employees.”
Those indicted include:
- Chad E. “JBo” Brown, 51, was indicted on one count of bank fraud and one count of using a false writing or document. He is accused of submitting a fraudulent IRS Schedule C form to obtain a PPP loan.
- Robert L. Lewis, 45, was indicted on four counts of fentanyl distribution and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
- Robert “Honest” Sims, 40, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture containing methamphetamine.
- Samir Simpson-Bey, 37, was indicted on one count of distribution of 40 grams or more of fentanyl.
- Jeremy “Welo” Steele, 44, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl and 500 grams or more of a mixture containing methamphetamine.
- Carl Von Garrett, 53, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and two counts of money laundering in an indictment which alleges that nearly $1,000,000 of drug proceeds were laundered between March and May 2021.
- Tiffany J. “Tiff BMF” Nelson, 42, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and four counts of money laundering. She is accused of laundering the proceeds of illegal activity.
“Anytime we are able to dismantle an organization involved in selling the big four – fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine – it’s a big deal,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael A. Davis, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration division that leads DEA investigations in Missouri, Kansas, and Southern Illinois. “The scale of this Midwest criminal operation is uncommon, so it’s no wonder that it took the combined resources of federal, state, and local law enforcement to bring the operation to an end. Protecting our citizens is DEA’s primary goal and the reward is worth the effort.”
“This week’s take-down demolished multiple drug trafficking organizations which were the main suppliers of methamphetamine, fentanyl, and cocaine into the St. Louis region,” said Special Agent in Charge Jay Greenberg of the FBI St. Louis Division. “Today’s arrests of more than two dozen suspects by the St. Louis Gateway Strike Force is a culmination of a 4-year investigation into a world of violence frequently associated with drug trafficking. The St. Louis Gateway Strike Force is a collaboration of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to combat violent gang crimes and drug trafficking throughout the bi-state region.”
“The goal of every criminal organization is to make money. The special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) are the best in the business at following money trails leading to a criminal’s door,” said Special Agent in Charge Thomas F. Murdock. “If we can track where money is coming from and where it’s going, we can disrupt the financial structures that support criminal networks.”
The investigation was conducted by the St. Louis Gateway Strike Force, which is part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and includes members of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. The OCDETF strike forces are permanent, multi-agency, prosecutor-led teams that conduct intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations against priority targets and their affiliate illicit financial networks. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at this link.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigations, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the St. Louis County Police Department and other members of the St. Louis Gateway Strike Force.