The Schuele Boys popped onto law enforcement’s radar screen last fall as the most dangerous drug gang in the city.
Large quantities of cocaine sold by members ended up not only in urban neighborhoods, but throughout the region, and gang members were not shy when it came to settling disputes with violence.
Wednesday, 14 of the 17 members – some who had been targeted by a rival gang member four years ago at the City Grill massacre – were arrested and Buffalo was declared a safer place by U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. at news conference later in the day.
“This vividly illustrates the need to take on these gangs,” Hochul said, promising that law enforcement will not allow gang violence to impede the city’s ongoing revitalization.
Last October, crime analysts for the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the Erie Crime Analysis Center were asked by law enforcement officials to rank gangs by their propensity for violence, and the Schuele Boys gang earned the No. 1 spot.
Several times during the investigation, which included listening in on gang members’ phone conversations, surveillance and undercover drug purchases, FBI agents, state troopers, city police and Erie County sheriff’s deputies had to stop what they were doing and make arrests before gang members could harm their rivals.
“There were a number of instances where we obtained information and had to make arrests before something violent happened,” said Brian P. Boetig, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo office. The preventive actions, Boetig said, had to be conducted in a way that they wouldn’t compromise the investigation.
The Schuele Boys Gang, believed to be responsible for a number of drive-by shootings, some of which ended in homicides, was flush with cash because of the strong organizational skills of its leader, Marcel “Cheese” Worthy, 30, of Buffalo.
He and fellow gang members used some of their drug profits to buy a used-car dealership, Gone Auto Sales, in the 2600 block of Bailey Avenue, real estate parcels, automobiles and other assets that were placed in the names of friends and family members to hide the true ownership, according to a federal complaint released Wednesday afternoon, several hours following the 5 a.m. raids involving 250 officers from area law enforcement agencies.
Cash, cocaine, marijuana, drug-preparation equipment, several handguns and a shotgun were seized, but exact amounts of what was taken have not yet been released.
And while the Schuele Boys have been around for years, Hochul pointed out that their profile increased after the City Grill massacre that killed four people and wounded four others Aug. 14, 2010.
“The Schuele Boys gang members may have been the intended target at the City Grill shooting,” Hochul said. “Despite the near miss, they continued their narcotics activities.”
Among the dead outside the City Grill was Shawntia McNeil, 27, who was Worthy’s girlfriend, authorities said.
Riccardo M. “Murder Matt” McCray, a member of the East Ferry Street Gang, which had been brawling with the Schuele Boys at a private party inside the now-closed downtown bar, was arrested soon after the shooting and later convicted. He is serving a life sentence without parole.
“It’s fairly organized, and the ringleader has pretty good leadership skills, Assistant FBI Special Agent in Charge Holly L. Hubert said of the Schuele Boys and Worthy. “Our own analysts with the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and analysts at the Erie Crime Analysis Center reached a consensus the Schuele Boys were the most dangerous gang in the region.”
With this latest crackdown, a dozen city gangs have been targeted and more than 200 arrests made since 2010, Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said, adding that more street crackdowns are expected in the coming weeks. “We’ve had more than 20 federal murder indictments in the last four years and we’ve been very successful working with our federal partners,” Derenda said. “This type of cooperation should serve as a national model for taking down street gangs.”
Secret recordings of phone conversations revealed how the gang’s members disguised their operations by speaking in an offbeat vocabulary:
• “Finesse,” or “fix,” meant cutting cocaine with other substances to increase its volume and profitability.
• “Hard” meant cooking the cocaine into crack cocaine, a cheaper version of the drug.
• “Soft” and “needs to go back in the kitchen” represented customer complaints, specifically that the crack was improperly prepared.
• “Wild,” “fire” and “wavy” all stood for top-quality cocaine.
• “Dropping” translated into discarding cellphones after a short period of time and purchasing new ones to thwart law enforcement from listening in on conversations.
• “I gotta holler at you” served as a notice that a meeting was needed to discuss business or carry out a transaction.
• “Hit some licks” was another way of saying making drug sales.
• “Room” and “short” stood for a buyer who lacked money and was seeking credit.
• “Long as you get back at me” was a term used by Worthy and others to signify the credit request had been approved.
• “Trying to catch a boy lacking out here” served as a warning that a rival gang member was driving in the Schuele Boys’ territory and attempting to shoot a Schuele Boys member who was “lacking,” meaning not paying attention to his surroundings.
The gang’s territory included an area roughly bounded by Schuele and Carl streets, and East Delavan Avenue and Genesee Street, plus several other blocks.
Drug distributors would meet up with gang members and purchase varying amounts of cocaine and crack cocaine that would be sold to street dealers and other dealers throughout the city, suburbs and region, Hubert said.
Others arrested were Aaron Glenn, 41, of North Tonawanda, and these Buffalo residents: Antwan Garner, 29; James Hicks, 44; Xavier Hill, 42; Demetrius Holmes, 23; Fred Johnson, 21; Ikeem Lyons, 21; Benjamin Peoples, 25; Demario Robbins, 23; Michael Robertson, 24; Spencer Rogers, 50; Antwon Steward, 31; and Shawntorrian Travis, 34. Boetig issued an appeal to the remaining three suspects to surrender: Jerome Grant, 33; Michael Robertson, 24; and Andre Wise, 36.
All of the gang members face federal charges of conspiring to distribute cocaine and misusing telephones to maintain their drug network, both felonies. If convicted, they could each face a minimum of 10 years behind bars and fines of up to $10 million, according to Hochul.
Neighbors on East Delavan and Carl expressed relief that the gang had been put out of commission, saying that the drug trade has often resulted in neighborhood violence.
However, at least one individual who was about to enter 261 Carl, where one of the eight search warrants was carried out earlier Wednesday, expressed anger.
“There were no drugs here,” the man said, flailing his arm into the air. “They didn’t find nothing. So move on. It was down the street.”
Other houses searched were 235 Carl, 136 Millicent Ave., 439 Wyoming Ave., 596 Eggert Road, 138 Bush St., 151 Grider St., and 31 Fisher St.