Gang member admits he used job at cancer center to scare witnesses

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    In a move that offered an inside look at the retaliatory world of gangs, a Detroit gang member pleaded guilty today to using his job at the prestigious Karmanos Cancer Institute to help others try to find and silence a mother and her two sons hospitalized with gunshot wounds suffered during an attack at their home.

    The 2015 shooting, which also wounded the family’s 15-year-old sister, was in retaliation for the two sons trying to leave the Traveling Vice Lords gang, authorities say.

    According to a guilty plea entered today in U.S. District Court, the gang set out to find the mother, her children and any of their relatives with the hopes of preventing them from talking to the authorities. To do so, records show, they relied on Traveling Vice Lord member Jamerio Clark, 27, of Detroit, who used his job at the Karmanos Cancer Institute to access a database that contained private information about the three shooting victims, who were being treated at a Detroit Medical Center facility.

    Clark, known as “Merio,” admitted to U.S. District Judge David Lawson today that he accessed the private database while at work at least 15 times to search for the three shooting victims. He then gave their private information — including their birth dates, phone numbers and addresses of relatives — to his brother, knowing that his brother wanted the information to find the individuals and prevent them from cooperating.

    “Protecting victims and witnesses is our highest priority,”  U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said. “Stealing personal information to facilitate witness intimidation is a serious crime that undermines our criminal justice system.”

    Clark’s brother, Antonio Clark, known as “Cheeto,” was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison in August for his role in the May 7, 2015, shooting: He fired an AK47 23 times, hitting the brothers, their mother and 15-year-old sister.  All survived.

    Jamerio Clark soon will share his brother’s fate in prison as he faces 70-87 months behind bars under the terms of his plea agreement. He is scheduled to be sentenced in January for his crime: tampering with a witness.

    According to court records, the Vice Lords is a national gang engaged in a variety of crimes, including murder, robbery, drug trafficking and witness intimidation. Those who try to leave the gang often face a physical beating, known as a “beat out,” or are targeted for killing, known as a “green light.” The gang’s leaders are located in Chicago and Detroit, and the gang is broken down into various “sets,” “decks,” or “branches,” including the Detroit-based Traveling Vice Lords, Insane Vice Lords, Imperial Insane Vice Lords, Conservative Vice Lords and Mafia Insane Vice Lords.

    Seven other Vice Lords defendants also have pleaded guilty to charges relating to the shooting. Four of them have been sentenced: Aramis Wilson, 25, of Detroit, 150 months in prison; Dion Robinson, 38, of Detroit,  121 months in prison; Jonathan Kinchen, 23, of Detroit, 120 months in prison, and Kojuan Lee, 20, of Detroit, 97 months in prison.

    The Traveling Vice Lords probe is part of a broader, federal investigation that has led to the arrests and convictions of dozens of Vice Lords leaders and members over the last few years. The investigation is the result of the Detroit One Initiative, a collaborative effort between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and the community to reduce homicide and other violent crime in Detroit.

    In two separate 2015  trials, juries convicted eight leaders and members of the Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club, many of whom were also leaders and members of the Vice Lords, for various crimes, including a mass-murder plot against a rival organization and the shooting of a rival gang member. Among those convicted was Antonio Johnson, known as “MT” and “Mister Tony,” the national president of the Phantoms and the three-star general over all of the Vice Lords in Michigan.

    Johnson was sentenced to 35 years in prison for a litany of crimes, including racketeering conspiracy and  murder conspiracy in aid of racketeering.

    Contact Tresa Baldas: tbaldas@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @Tbaldas.

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