November 24, 2014

Nine Defendants Charged in Federal Court with Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin in Benton Harbor

GRAND RAPIDS, MI—A federal grand jury returned an Indictment charging nine defendants with federal conspiracy for their alleged roles in supplying and distributing heroin in Benton Harbor, Michigan, U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles announced today. A joint investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Berrien County Sheriff’s Department resulted in the federal charges. All defendants were arrested without incident on November 6, 2014, by federal agents, law enforcement members of the FBI Benton Harbor Safe Streets Task Force, and Berrien County deputies, following a federal complaint filed in U.S. District Court on November 5, 2014.

The investigation initially focused on two of the alleged conspiracy members and ultimately resulted in the charging of nine conspirators and the seizure of approximately 100 grams of heroin, several medical-grade fentanyl patches, a small amount of crack cocaine, and approximately $27,000 in alleged drug proceeds.

The nine defendants were arraigned on November 20, 2014. Defendants Joseph Jackson, Willy Tibbs Jackson, Jacoby Ervin, Antwon Peterson, and Javel McElrath have been detained. Defendants Johnny Green, Kyeisha Bennett, Tanisha Swift, and Omar Osorio have been released on bond.

According to a 100-page affidavit filed in support of the federal arrests and search warrants, the investigation revealed that JOSEPH JACKSON lead a drug trafficking organization responsible for distributing between 50 and 65 grams of heroin per week in Benton Harbor from 2013 to the date of his arrest. Jackson, 44, of Benton Harbor, also known as “Jo Jo,” allegedly assigned responsibility for heroin acquisition and distribution to other individuals. As relayed in the complaint, Jackson acquired his heroin in Chicago, and then recruited others to transport it to Benton Harbor for him. Once in Benton Harbor, Jackson tasked others with the heroin’s storage and further distribution.

“This investigation is a prime example of the benefits of coordinated law enforcement efforts to root out organized drug trafficking in our district. The extraordinary cooperation among the DEA, FBI, Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, Berrien County Prosecuting Attorney’s office and Michigan State Police made these charges possible,” said U.S. Attorney Miles. “Heroin remains a plague upon our society. My office will continue to direct investigations such as these rooting out those who would profit from spreading poison on our streets,” he said.

U.S. Attorney Miles announced the charges with Joseph P. Reagan, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Detroit Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration; and Paul Abbate, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit Field Office, Paul Bailey, Sheriff of Berrien County, and Michael J. Sepic, Berrien County Prosecuting Attorney.

Joseph P. Reagan, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Detroit Field Division stated, “Heroin abuse in Benton Harbor and across Michigan has increased significantly in recent years. This investigation illustrates that strong cooperation between DEA and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners can lead to significant results, with the potential to improve the quality of life for the residents of Benton Harbor.”

“This case is a reflection of the unparalleled partnership among federal, state and local law enforcement in Western Michigan to combat drug trafficking in our communities,” stated Paul Abbate, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit Field Office. “Violence goes handin- hand with organized drug trafficking, wreaking havoc upon neighborhoods and families. The FBI and our law enforcement partners remain steadfast in the fight against these crimes and our enduring commitment to the law abiding citizens of our state.”

“As the Sheriff, I have no tolerance for heroin in our community and my department will work tirelessly to see that those involved with spreading it will be captured and prosecuted,” said Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey. “This sort of case does not happen without the cooperation of multiple agencies of law enforcement both on the state and federal level. We appreciate the involvement of all our partners and will continue in these joint efforts as long as necessary.”

The complaint affidavit alleges that Jackson was a wholesale supplier of heroin and worked with, WILLY TIBBS JACKSON, 38, Benton Harbor, to distribute heroin from the organization’s stash houses located at 1018 Pavone Avenue, Benton Harbor and 1073 Pearl Street, Benton Harbor. The Indictment charges Jackson and Tibbs with conspiracy to possess and distribute 100 grams or more of heroin. If convicted, they each face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine.

The filed complaint details the alleged roles of Jackson’s fellow conspiracy members. JACOBY ERVIN, also known as “Coby,” 27, Benton Harbor, and ANTWON PETERSON, also known as “Streets,” 23, Benton Harbor, are both alleged to be wholesale distributors for the organization. JAVEL McELRATH, also known as “J-Z,” 22, Benton Harbor, and JOHNNY GREEN, 55, of Elkhart, Indiana, are alleged to be repeated wholesale customers of Jackson’s organization. KYIESHA BENNETT, 23, of Benton Harbor, and TANISHA SWIFT, 26, of Benton Harbor, are alleged to have acted as couriers on Jackson’s behalf, transporting heroin from Chicago, Illinois to Benton Harbor. The complaint alleges that OMAR OSORIO, 20, of Chicago, was Jackson’s heroin source. Under the charge in the Indictment, these defendants each face up to 20 years in prison based on the quantity of drug attributable to them.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen P. Baker is representing the federal government. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Taylor handled responsibility for the state side of the prosecution.

The public is reminded that the charges in an indictment are merely accusations, and all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.