Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory had a certain style of doing things: way over the top.
When he traveled, his entourage numbered in the dozens. When he threw parties, he stocked them with high-priced champagne, ice sculptures and zoo animals, and enough eye candy to cause a stomachache. Inside the sprawling DeKalb County home where investigators say he lived, the walls were hung with framed photos of mob boss John Gotti and fictitious drug lord Tony Montana. One of his alleged associates – who's now a convicted cocaine dealer serving a life sentence – was Mayor Shirley Franklin's son-in-law.
Even some of the crimes of which Meech was suspected (though never indicted) have been of mythic proportions: the 1997 murder of a federal witness the day after the witness was released from custody, the 2003 death of Sean "Diddy" Combs' former bodyguard in a gun battle behind a Buckhead club.
But perhaps the most outsized of all is Meech's reputation – whether legit or not – as a ruthless yet magnanimous don, one who frightened his enemies and lavished generous rewards on his friends. His defense team will try to deconstruct that image, but one thing can't be disputed: No matter what the occasion, Meech did it big.
His federal trial, scheduled to begin Nov. 26 in Detroit, will be no exception.
Court documents filed by the prosecution allege that with Flenory and his younger brother at the helm, the organization they created – the Black Mafia Family – was one of the country's most prodigious cocaine rings. (Meech and his alleged criminal enterprise were the subject of a three-part series published last year by CL.) BMF is believed to have moved thousands of kilos of coke each month and laundered more than a quarter of a billion dollars in drug proceeds. Along the way, the organization was aided by a strict code of silence that blanketed crew members – at least for a time.
In an attempt to prove a "historical conspiracy" that dates back to the late '80s, the government has amassed more than 11,000 pages of evidence – an unusual amount of documentation, according to Drew Findling, an Atlanta-based attorney who represents Meech.
"In a non-white-collar case," Findling says, "that's huge."
The government will draw on evidence that Meech and his brother, Terry "Southwest T" Flenory, got into the drug trade in their native Detroit when they were teenagers. Prosecutors will attempt to show that a decade later, BMF had expanded to L.A., where cocaine shipments were smuggled in from Mexico, and Atlanta, where the coke was delivered by private jet or vehicles outfitted with secret "traps." And they'll hope to prove that by 2003, the Flenory brothers had built BMF into a complex web of drug distribution and money laundering – an enterprise that used violence to enforce its rule.
Meech is accused of running BMF's hub in Atlanta, where he created a name for himself as a flashy hip-hop entrepreneur and legendary partyer – the antithesis to his more understated brother. He also drew heat to BMF by bragging that he spent $50,000 in a single visit to nightclubs such as Vision and Compound, and by traveling with a crew that caused trouble. Among other violent crimes, BMF associates have been implicated in a stabbing inside a Buckhead restaurant, a fatal shooting in the parking lot of a Midtown club, and a double homicide of a prospective federal witness and his girlfriend.
Only one of the suspects in the murder investigations has been charged. BMF's alleged third-in-command, Fleming "Ill" Daniels, was indicted in Fulton County earlier this year for what witnesses call the "senseless" killing of nightclub patron Rashannibal "Prince" Drummond.
No arrests have been made in the murder of the prospective witness and his girlfriend. But in April, federal agents identified a suspect in open court: Mayor Franklin's ex-son-in-law, Tremayne Graham. Federal agents also testified that the mayor's daughter, Kai Franklin, is being investigated for what she might have known about her ex-husband's cocaine ring.
When the Flenory brothers and their co-defendants go on trial, they will not face charges of any violent crimes. Instead, Meech and Terry were indicted for running a "continuing criminal enterprise," a federal statute created to take down organized crime rings. If convicted, they face a mandatory life sentence.
The trial will come two years after the Flenorys were arrested and held without bond. It will cap a 15-year DEA investigation into what ultimately became a 41-person indictment. And it will pit at least six of those co-defendants, who broke BMF's code of silence and struck deals for lesser sentences, against the few alleged conspirators left standing.
If the thousands of pages of court documents filed in the case against the Flenory brothers are any indication, Meech will have to overcome several hurdles to avoid conviction.
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