Black Mafia Family trial set for late summer
List of defendants shrinks as suspects plea - and become state witnesses
An August trial date has been set in the 41-defendant federal prosecution of the Black Mafia Family, an alleged multistate cocaine ring whose operation spanned more than two decades and generated an estimated $270 million.
The storied BMF crew, which is said to have run a central hub in Atlanta and has publicly aligned itself with such hip-hop stars as Young Jeezy, was nabbed in October 2005 after a years-long investigation. The investigation was the subject of a three-part series published in December by CL.
The ring's Atlanta enterprise was allegedly led by Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory, a flashy Atlanta-based hip-hop entrepreneur who is accused of using his record label and glossy magazine as a front for drug money. Meech's brother, Terry "Southwest T" Flenory, allegedly led the organization's L.A. hub.
At times, the probe was complicated by a code of silence that blanketed crew members. The silence, however, has been broken by several alleged witnesses — many of whom recently were identified in court documents for the first time. The documents, filed last month in federal court, offer the most detailed view to date of the government's case against BMF.
Two of the 12 potential witnesses who are identified by name — Charles Parson and Arnold Boyd — are defendants who've pleaded guilty and are now cooperating in the federal investigation. Parson and Boyd are described as couriers who ran drugs and cash for the crew. (Three additional defendants have pleaded guilty as well, though their plea agreements do not reference any willingness to cooperate.) At least three other defendants who have yet to enter a guilty plea also are cooperating with the feds.
A document filed Jan. 16 describes Boyd's visits to a sprawling Lithonia home where the Flenory brothers allegedly lived. The crew called it the "White House." On one occasion, in the basement of the house, Boyd claims to have spotted seven alleged BMF members — including Terry Flenory — and 100 kilos of coke.
The document also states that a contractor doing work on the house occasionally observed people sleeping on the floor "with guns, money, and jewelry at their sides."
"The jewelry he recalled seeing included 'BMF' medallions," according to the document. "He asked a couple of these individuals what 'BMF' stood for. One told him that 'BMF' ... stood for 'Black Mafia Family.' [He] was told that if [he] had not yet heard of the 'Black Mafia Family,' 'he soon would.'"
The most damning statements to surface in the court file point to Terry Flenory. There is little in the witnesses' statements that directly implicates Terry's brother of running drugs or laundering cash — aside from one witness who claimed Big Meech supplied him with cocaine in the late '80s and early '90s, and another who said Meech gave him $125,000 cash to write a check for jewelry.
Demetrius Flenory's attorney, Drew Findling, has said in court filings and in interviews with CL that the evidence against his client is weak. "Ninety-nine percent is Terry," Findling says. "We got a few names [of witnesses], but they just make general statements. That's it. There is no specificity."
Terry Flenory's attorney, William B. Daniel, of Detroit, was not available for comment. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit did not return CL's phone calls.
Perhaps the most illuminating of the witnesses' accusations are the ones offering new details on the crew's alleged ties to luminaries such as Jeezy; New York diamond purveyor to the stars Jacob "the Jeweler" Arabov; Grammy-nominated songwriter and Dreamgirls soundtrack producer Damon Thomas; and former son-in-law of Mayor Shirley Franklin, Tremayne Graham.
Defendant-turned-witness Boyd recalled a 2003 transaction in Atlanta between Terry Flenory and Graham. "Graham picked up $250,000 from Terry Flenory while Terry Flenory was at the 'White House,'" according to the court document. Boyd described the money as Terry Flenory's investment as a silent owner in 404 Motorsports, a high-end car dealership that Graham co-owned. "Boyd helped Tremayne Graham load the cash in Graham's vehicle, which was equipped with hidden compartments," the document states. Graham later pleaded guilty, in a separate federal case, to running drugs for BMF.
Another document, also filed in January, includes statements from Parson, the other defendant to sign a cooperation agreement. Parson described his frequent trips to New York with Terry Flenory: "Parson said that when Flenory traveled to New York City, he would always meet with 'Jacob the Jeweler' to drop off money for jewelry."
Another "cooperating defendant," Eric Bivens, described a 2005 traffic stop outside Cleveland during which he, Terry Flenory and other alleged BMF members were interrogated, and police seized $5 million in Arabov-designed jewelry. Terry had planned to take the jewels to Young Jeezy so that Jeezy could use them in a video that was supposed to be shot in St. Louis, according to Bivens. But the shoot never took place.
Shortly after the traffic stop, investigators — who had a wire up on Terry Flenory's phone — listened as he called Thomas, the music producer, and asked him to claim the jewels as his own. Thomas complied, and Arabov allegedly facilitated that and other fraud at BMF's request.
Several months after the BMF indictment was unsealed, Arabov — one of the world's best-known jewelers, whose name is often invoked in hip-hop songs — was added as a co-defendant and charged with money laundering. The government recently agreed to separately try Arabov and the five other defendants who face only money-laundering charges. A trial date for the alleged money launderers has not been set.
The trial for the other defendants is scheduled to begin Aug. 6 in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, the city where the Flenory brothers were born and raised — and allegedly birthed one of the nation's largest cocaine rings of recent years.
If the case does go to trial in August, it will take place nearly two years after the Flenorys were arrested and the indictment against them unsealed.
MORE BMF: To read CL's three-part series on the Black Mafia Family, visit atlanta.creativeloafing.com/bmf.