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Detroit gang leader gets 35 years for racketeering

By David Amoruso / PRESS RELEASE

Antonio Johnson, the National President of the Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club and “Three-Star General” of the Vice Lords street gang in Detroit, Michigan, was sentenced yesterday to 35 years in prison for violent racketeering-related crimes.  To date, twelve other defendants have been convicted for their roles in a violent conspiracy related to the outlaw biker club and notorious street gang.

Antonio Johnson, aka Mister Tony, MT or Big Bro, 39, of Detroit, was convicted on March 16, 2015, after a multi-week trial, of engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, use and carry of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and being a felon in possession of firearms. 

“Through his leadership positions in two gangs, Johnson spread violence in Detroit and beyond,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell.  “Here, through the Detroit One initiative, the collective efforts of federal agents, state and local police, and private citizens helped thwart a mass murder plot and ensure the convictions and lengthy prison sentences of Johnson and his fellow gang members.”

At trial, evidence showed that the Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club, which is headquartered in northwest Detroit, and its members were involved in a range of criminal activity including conspiracy to commit murder, shootings, robbery, extortion and the possession and sale of stolen vehicles and motorcycles.  The evidence also demonstrated that the leadership of the Phantoms was heavily involved in the Vice Lords, a well-known street gang originating from Chicago, and that Johnson was both the National President of the Phantoms and a leader of the Vice Lords in Michigan.  The evidence showed that Johnson used the Vice Lords to assist the Phantoms in various criminal endeavors, including to search for and violently attack rivals of the Phantoms.

Specifically, according to the evidence presented at trial, on September 8, 2013, Johnson ordered numerous Phantoms to forcibly steal the “rags,” or motorcycle vests, of members of the rival Satan Sidekick Motorcycle Club.  The evidence showed that, during Phantoms’ attempt to do so, a Satan Sidekick member was shot in the face and a Phantom member was stabbed.

According to the evidence presented at trial, a few weeks later, Johnson and his fellow Phantoms plotted the murder of three members of the rival Hell Lovers Motorcycle Club whom the Phantoms believed were responsible for a shooting death of a member of their club.  According to the evidence presented at trial, the plot involved killing the three men and then, during the anticipated subsequent wake at the Hell Lovers’ clubhouse, shooting all Hell Lovers in attendance.  ATF and FBI agents intervened before the Phantoms carried out the plot.

Several weeks ago, Johnson’s second-in-command and top enforcer, 46-year-old Marvin “The Chosen One” Nicholson of Detroit, was sentenced to serve 40 years in prison after having been convicted of RICO conspiracy, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, and shooting at federal agents.

The arrests and convictions in this case are, in part, the result of the Detroit One Initiative, a collaborative effort between law enforcement and the community to reduce homicide and other violent crime in Detroit.  Authorities linked various acts of violence in Detroit to the Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club and the Vice Lords street gang, and identified the leaders and key members of these gangs, who now have been held accountable.

“Gang wars fuel violence in our community, and the resulting drive-by shootings create unacceptable risk to innocent lives,” said U.S. Attorney McQuade.  “The Detroit One partners are systematically dismantling violent street and motorcycle gangs that are destroying the peace in our neighborhoods.”

In addition to Johnson and Nicholson, the following defendants have been convicted and sentenced:

  • Brian Sorrell, 28, of Detroit, was convicted of RICO conspiracy, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, and use and carry of firearms during and in relation to a crime of violence.He was sentenced to serve 21 years in prison.
  • Matthew Schamante, 33, of Waterford, was convicted of RICO conspiracy, and was sentenced to serve 102 months in prison.
  • Brian Jackson, 48, of Detroit, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, and was sentenced to serve 96 months in prison.
  • Sherman Brown, 44, of Detroit, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, and was sentenced to serve 100 months in prison.
  • Brandon Paige, 21, of Detroit, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, and was sentenced to serve 90 months in prison.
  • Roger Valdes, 30, of Pontiac, Michigan, was convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering and use and carry of firearms during and in relation to a crime of violence, and was sentenced to serve 49 months in prison.

The following defendants also have been convicted, but have not yet been sentenced:

  • Raynard Brown, 39, of Detroit, was convicted of RICO conspiracy.
  • Vicente Phillips, 51, of Pontiac, was convicted of RICO conspiracy.
  • Maurice Williams, 34, of Detroit, was convicted of RICO conspiracy.
  • Christopher Odum, 30, of Detroit, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering.
  • William Frazier, 37, of Auburn Hills, Michigan, was convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering and use and carry of firearms during and in relation to a crime of violence.

The case was investigated by the ATF and the FBI.  The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Joseph Wheatley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Graveline and Louis Gabel of the Eastern District of Michigan.

Through the Detroit One initiative, local, state, and federal law enforcement authorities are maximizing their abilities to identify and arrest those responsible for violence in Detroit.  Since 2013, this collective effort has had led to significant indictments, convictions, and sentences against a number of street gang members responsible for much of the violent crime in Detroit.  These collaboration also has contributed to a decrease in the homicide rate from 386 in 2012 to 300 in 2014, and in the overall violent crime rate.

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