A federal grand jury has indicted 40 people in South Carolina in what is alleged to be the biggest racketeering conspiracy in the state’s history, with charges that include orchestrating murder and kidnapping, and distribution of drugs and firearms.
The Justice Department said in a release Thursday, that the 147-count indictment (pdf) against defendants across South Carolina alleges that inmates with the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC), often by means of contraband cellphones, orchestrated murder, kidnapping, firearms distribution, and an international drug operation.
“The defendants allegedly operated a violent and lucrative drug enterprise on behalf of the Insane Gangster Disciples while incarcerated,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, in a statement.
The case began in July 2017 as a multi-agency investigation into methamphetamine trafficking and the illegal sale of firearms. As the investigation developed, it led law enforcement to focus on the Insane Gangster Disciples (IGD), a branch of Folk Nation, a violent gang founded in the 1970s.
“IGD operates inside and outside of prisons and jails in South Carolina and elsewhere, and IGD members and associates frequently traffic illegal drugs and commit violent acts,” the indictment says, noting the gang seeks to enrich its leaders by acts that include drug and firearms trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, money laundering, and moving contraband, including drugs and cell phones into prisons and jails.
“The individuals in this indictment were responsible for trafficking 50 million dollars worth of methamphetamine a year over the past three years. Law enforcement also seized over 130 firearms, one of which has been determined to be an automatic machine gun,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Holloway, at a press conference, according to local outlet WACH.
The gang seeks to protect its power and proceeds by acts that include murder, kidnapping, and assault, while keeping victims and witnesses of its crimes in fear of their lives through intimidation and violence, according to the indictment.
In one incident described in the indictment, two defendants kidnapped a woman, Michelle Dodge, who they believed was a police informant. After subjecting her to torture that included waterboarding and shooting her in the foot, they drove her to a secluded area, “walked her towards the wood line, and shot her in the back of the head, killing her.”
Every defendant charged in the conspiracy faces life in prison due to sentencing enhancements through IGD’s involvement in murders and drug trafficking, the Justice Department said.
The sentences sought and received have been among the harshest of any U.S. Attorney’s Office in the country, according to prosecutor Peter McCoy.
“Be it in jail or on the outside, organized crime organizations in South Carolina will be sought out as aggressively as the law allows,” he said in a statement.