Alleged members and close associates of the Nine Trey Gangsters organization arrested in a major crack cocaine investigation appeared in federal court Wednesday.
Many details of the case — including the criminal complaint, an accompanying affidavit and arrest warrants — remain secret and under court seal. Authorities say Nine Trey is a “set” of the United Blood Nation street gang.
The five men and three women, all wearing blue jail jumpsuits, appeared before U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. on Wednesday morning, and all but one waived their right to a preliminary hearing.
According to John Kohler, an FBI agent who testified Wednesday, the Nine Trey Gangsters “is a Blood-based gang set that runs up and down the East Coast.” It was formed in 1993 at the Rikers Island jail complex in New York, he said.
Kohler testified that one of the defendants, identified as Khalil S. Ali, told investigators that from April 2011 through last year, he supplied the gang with between 9 and 12 kilograms of cocaine, which was converted into crack cocaine.
As far as was known Wednesday, Ali, known as “Swindler,” was not a member of the gang. His lawyer, in unsuccessfully seeking Ali’s pretrial release, argued that Ali was a lifelong Richmond resident with no felony convictions.
In opposing Ali’s release, Angela Mastandrea-Miller, an assistant U.S. attorney, told Gibney, “This is a massive quantity of drugs … brought into the community thanks in large part to Mr. Ali.”
According to the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, in 2011, Randy Broward, who founded a chapter of the Nine Trey Bloods gang in Newport News, was sentenced to life plus 237 years for conspiracy to commit murder, use of a sawed-off shotgun, felony street gang participation and other offenses.
News accounts in recent years show there have been prosecutions of gang members for drug and violent crimes in states such as New Jersey and New York.
The eight individuals in court Wednesday — Ali, Quincy Burrell, Sande Chhim, Raymond Dawes, Amanda Ewell, Brynn Lackey, Lovell Ricthie and Michael Smallwood — were said to be from Virginia or the District of Columbia and ranged in age from 22 to 40.
A memorandum filed by authorities last week seeking to keep the records sealed states that agents of the FBI and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration “are conducting an ongoing investigation into the Nine Trey Gangsters organization, which operates throughout the commonwealth of Virginia and elsewhere.”
Because the investigation is continuing, the memo said that releasing further information could have an “adverse result.”
“This includes the possibility of endangering the life or physical safety of law enforcement officers when they execute arrest warrants; the potential for flight from prosecution by the individuals named in the complaint; the destruction of or tampering with evidence; the intimidation of potential cooperating witnesses,” wrote authorities in asking their motion to seal be granted.