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Hip-hop's shadowy empire 

In the summer of 2005, the party would get out of hand for Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory and the Black Mafia Family. And the feds would be ready to make their move. Part 3 of 3

Page 5 of 7

Three years after the crime, neither Meech nor anyone else has been indicted in the double homicide.

Meech's attorney, Drew Findling, says the fact that the state can't produce the witness calls into question her actual existence at the club, let alone her credibility. "There was never a name, no evidence that there was anybody accompanying her to corroborate her presence there. The whole thing was just comical."

On July 25, 2004, Rashannibal "Prince" Drummond was shot to death in Midtown. Two law enforcement officials say Meech and other BMF members were at the scene, and a third says investigators were "definitely" looking at the homicide as being linked to BMF.

According to Findling, however, the claims of BMF's involvement are highly questionable. "I've never heard anything about my client having anything to do with that until you asked me that question," he says. "And I would imagine his involvement would have been something that would come to light."

No one has been arrested in Prince's death -- though there is pending civil action. Prince's mother, Debbie Morgan, is suing the club where the killing occurred for failing to protect her son. The lawsuit does not name BMF or any alleged members.

On Sept. 5, 2004, Ulysses Hackett and his girlfriend, Misty Carter, were shot to death while lying in bed in her Atlanta apartment. At the time, Hackett was awaiting trial on charges that he and eight defendants -- one of whom was Mayor Shirley Franklin's son-in-law at the time -- were running cocaine for BMF. Police say Hackett was considering turning state's witness against them.

No one has been arrested in Hackett's and Carter's deaths, either.

And on May 10, 2005, the rapper Gucci Mane shot one of five alleged home invaders. Gucci was arrested -- and later cleared -- for killing his attacker. But none of the men who allegedly attacked Gucci have been arrested. Gucci's two defense attorneys claimed BMF was connected to the incident, and the DeKalb District Attorney's Office told CL the FBI was investigating those allegations.

But both Findling and two men close to the man Gucci killed have said it's all too easy blame the amorphous BMF crew for any of Atlanta's nightclub and hip-hop-related crimes. "I'm not going to sit and address BMF and the convenience of referencing it by defense attorneys," Findling says. "I don't really care about that."

While targeting BMF on allegations of violence proved challenging, there were other ways to try to take down the organization. As it turned out, going after BMF on federal drug charges would prove more fruitful.

[Deep background on the above section]

On the afternoon of Oct. 20, 2005, U.S. Marshals descended on a million-dollar mansion in a Dallas suburb. In the garage, they found a 2004 Bentley GT. Inside the house, they discovered a small amount marijuana and ecstasy, and nearly $700,000 in jewelry. Locked in a vault, they unearthed a high-velocity "cop-killer" semi-automatic that could breach a bulletproof vest.

And in one of the bedrooms, they apprehended Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory.

He did not put up a fight, nor did he say a word.

A week later, federal agents showed up at a home in the suburbs of St. Louis. Even from outside the house, they claimed, they could detect the smell of weed. They knocked on the door -- and heard a bunch of people running through the house, yelling about the police being outside.

They busted in and immediately came face-to-face with Southwest T.

Once the Flenory brothers were behind bars, an 11-count, 25-defendant indictment that had been filed in federal court earlier that week was unsealed. The feds waited to reveal the charges because, "the United States is apprehensive that there is danger of harm to potential government witnesses if the defendants become aware of the indictment prior to arrest."

A half-dozen other defendants alleged to be high-ranking BMF operatives were hunted down that week (most of them in far-flung hideouts). And the case, which would later grow to 13 counts and 41 defendants, including BMF Entertainment Chief Operating Officer Chad "J-Bo" Brown, "is probably the highest-volume drug conspiracy in this district, ever," Assistant U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison has said.

The indictment, filed in the Flenorys' hometown of Detroit, charges the Flenory brothers under the rarely invoked "Continuing Criminal Enterprise" statute. A CCE case is similar to a racketeering, or RICO, one. Both are used to take down organized crime rings. The difference is that a CCE charge limits the scope of the allegations to drug trafficking. RICO on the other hand, encompasses a wide range of organized, criminal activity.

The indictment doesn't contain any allegations of violence on BMF's part. But evidence in the case paints BMF as an expansive cocaine ring that creatively laundered at least $270 million in drug proceeds in 15 years. It describes Meech's record label, BMF Entertainment, as being financed by the cocaine trade. And it suggests that he ran an illegal enterprise that fused an organized-crime network with a company that purveyed hip-hop hype.

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