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18-month investigation targeted high-crime area

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mike Tobin
Plain Dealer Reporter

When Cleveland police took out a street map and charted where the most serious crimes occurred, their decision about which gang to target in 2005 was easy.

With colored dots denoting each murder, robbery and drug arrest, the area from East 70th to East 79th streets between St. Clair and Superior avenues, became a jumble of green, red and blue circles.

The area corresponded with turf controlled by the 7 Alls gang, Police Chief Michael McGrath said Wednesday in announcing the indictment of 44 people for selling crack cocaine in the area.

"The crimes committed in this area suck it dry and really affect the quality of life in the neighborhoods," McGrath said.

The arrests, carried out early Wednesday morning, were the culmination of an 18-month investigation. All 44 people were charged with conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, and others were indicted on firearms and related drug charges.

The network brought bricks of cocaine into Cleveland, cooked it down into crack cocaine and then sold the rocks on street corners on the East Side. Between 12 and 20 of those indicted -- mostly lower-level street dealers -- are members of the 7 Alls gang, prosecutors said.

The indictments, filed in U.S. District Court, carry mandatory minimum sentences of between five and 20 years in federal prison, U.S. Attorney Greg White said.

"It's real time, it's no joke," White said. "These guys won't be coming back into that neighborhood this afternoon or tomorrow or this year."

The drug network had three tiers, prosecutors said. Seven men were ringleaders who bought tens of thousands of dollars' worth of cocaine and then sold it to the second tier. Those midlevel dealers then sold the drugs in the neighborhood through gang members who hawked the crack from street corners.

The 7 Alls gang derives its name from its territory, which includes East 70th through East 79th streets, prosecutors said.

Most of the men arrested also come from that neighborhood. The arrested men who police said are the ringleaders: Willie Ausler, 33; Demetrius Hines, 23; Carl Drewery, 32; Donnie Stewart, 29; Taiwan Wiggins, 32, all of Cleveland and Roy Tarver, 37, of Euclid. Jeffrey Doss, 39, of Cleveland remains at large.

The investigation is part of an effort by law enforcement to crack down on street gangs, White said. Police arrested 28 members of the Dirty 30 gang in June, in the city's Central neighborhood, and last month indicted 20 members of the Quarter Boys, who prosecutors said dealt cocaine from the Lakeview Terrace housing project on the near West Side.

The Dirty 30, Quarter Boys and now 7 Alls were identified as among the city's most troublesome gangs in late 2005, McGrath said.

Once the 7 Alls were targeted, police informants bought drugs from the corner dealers between May 2005 and last month. Police have hundreds of hours of undercover video showing people buying drugs from the people arrested.

While the indictments are for drugs, the dealers controlled their area through threats of violence, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Pinjuh.

The turf wars became so violent that two people who sold drugs - Matthew Manning, 21, and Eddie Cook, 23 - were shot to death before they could be indicted, Pinjuh said. Those shootings remain unsolved.

Fourteen other people plus three juveniles face state charges as part of the investigation.

Police will continue to step up enforcement in the neighborhood so another gang or drug organization doesn't step in to fill the void created by Wednesday's arrests, McGrath said.

"My gut reaction is that this is going to make an impact," McGrath said.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

mtobin@plaind.com, 216-999-4128

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