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March 16, 2015

Six Leaders and Members of Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club and Vice Lords Street Gang Convicted of Violent Racketeering-Related Crimes

Today, a federal jury in Detroit convicted six leaders and members of the violent Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club, many of whom were also leaders and members of the Vice Lords street gang, of conspiracy to commit murder and other violent racketeering-related offenses.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Steve Bogdalek of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’s (ATF) Detroit Field Division and Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Division made the announcement.

“The Phantom Motorcycle Club used violence and plotted murder in an effort to prevail in a gang war against rival motorcycle clubs in Michigan and throughout the country, and its leaders and members attempted to kill anyone who stood in their way,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “The trial convictions of the gang’s National President, National Enforcer and four other members bring to a close this dangerous organization’s violent reign. I am thankful for the courageous and diligent efforts of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners who successfully brought this criminal enterprise to justice.”

“The Detroit One partnership has focused on dismantling violent street gangs like this one because they cause intolerable harm to public safety in our neighborhoods,” said U.S. Attorney McQuade. “We will continue to target and disrupt violent gangs in hopes of restoring peace for residents in our community.”

“The amount of pain, suffering and fear that violent gangs bring to our communities is immeasurable,” said Special Agent in Charge Bogdalek. “Our goal was to disable the group by targeting its leadership, the convictions today of leaders and members of these illegal motorcycle gangs is an excellent example of success that comes from effective law enforcement cooperation.”

“As part of the Detroit One Initiative, this joint investigation effectively targeted and neutralized violent criminal offenders of the Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club,” said Special Agent in Charge Abbate. “Our efforts to combat violent crime continue to be waged each and every day in cooperation with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners. Protecting our communities from offenders such as these is among our highest priorities, and we will continue this fight on behalf of the citizens we serve and protect.”

The jury convicted the defendants of the following offenses:

  • Antonio Johnson, aka, “Mister Tony,” “MT,” and “Big Bro,” 40, of Detroit, the National President of the Phantoms and the “Three-Star General” over the Vice Lords street gang in Michigan, was convicted of engaging in a RICO conspiracy, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, using and carrying firearms during and in relation to a crime of violence and being a felon in possession of firearms.

  • Marvin Nicholson, aka, “Chosen One,” 46, of Detroit, the National Enforcer of the Phantoms and a Vice Lords member, was convicted of engaging in a RICO conspiracy, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, assault on federal officers, using and carrying firearms during and in relation to a crime of violence and being a felon in possession of firearms.

  • Brian Sorrell, aka, “PC,” 28, of Detroit, a member of the Detroit Chapter of the Phantoms and the Vice Lords, was convicted of engaging in a RICO conspiracy, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering and using and carrying firearms during and in relation to a crime of violence.

  • Sherman Brown, aka, “Tank,” 43, of Detroit, the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Detroit Chapter of the Phantoms and a Vice Lords member, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering.

  • Brian Jackson, aka, “Wood,” 48, of Detroit, the Master Sergeant of the Inkster, Michigan Chapter of the Phantoms, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering.

  • Matthew Schamante, aka, “Arsenal,” 32, of Waterford, Michigan, the President of the Pontiac, Michigan Chapter of the Phantoms, was convicted of engaging in a RICO conspiracy and possessing an unregistered short-barrel shotgun.

At trial, evidence showed that the Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club is headquartered in northwest Detroit and has chapters throughout Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Texas, Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee, as well as a chapter of “Nomads” that travel at will. The evidence showed that the club and its members were involved in a range of criminal activity including conspiracy to commit murder, shootings, robbery, extortion and the possession and sale of stolen vehicles and motorcycles.

Evidence also showed that the leadership of the Phantoms was heavily involved in the Vice Lords street gang, including Johnson, who was both the National President of the Phantoms and the “Three-Star General” over the Vice Lords street gang in Michigan. The Vice Lords is a well-known street gang originating from Chicago. Specifically, the evidence showed that Johnson used the Vice Lords to assist the Phantoms in various criminal endeavors, including to search for and violently attack rivals of the Phantoms.

The evidence specifically demonstrated that, on Sept. 8, 2013, Johnson ordered numerous Phantoms, including Nicholson and Sorrell, to take the vests or “rags” of the Satan Sidekicks Motorcycle Club, a rival motorcycle club. During the attempted robbery, Sorrell shot the victim in the face.

Additionally, according to the evidence, Johnson blamed the Hell Lovers Outlaw Motorcycle Club for the murder of a Phantoms member in late September 2013, and ordered a three-phase murder plot against the Hell Lovers in retaliation. In the first phase, the Phantoms were to murder at least three members of the Hell Lovers in Detroit in order to lure additional Hell Lovers to Michigan for the funeral. In the second phase, the Phantoms were to murder all members of the Hell Lovers who would be at the Hell Lovers’ Detroit, Michigan clubhouse following the funeral of the three members murdered in the first phase. In the third phase, the Phantoms were to kill Hell Lovers in other cities throughout the country where the Phantoms had chapters. The mass murder plot was interrupted before it came to fruition by search warrants executed by the ATF and FBI in October 2013. At trial, evidence showed that the Phantoms were preparing for the first phase of the murder plot at the time of the search warrants, including stockpiling firearms, hiring a thief to steal a van to be used in the murders, conducting research and surveillance of their intended victims, and assigning Phantom members and Vice Lords members to stalk and murder the intended victims. Johnson, Nicholson, Sorrell, Brown and Jackson were all convicted of the murder plot.

Finally, the evidence demonstrated that, on Oct. 4, 2013, while the ATF and FBI attempted to execute a search warrant at his residence in Detroit, Nicholson shot at ATF agents four times as they attempted to enter his residence. A wall prevented the bullets from hitting the agents. The firearm that Nicholson used to shoot at the ATF agents was registered to Schamante.

Sentencing hearings will be scheduled at a later date before U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman of the Eastern District of Michigan. Five defendants have previously pleaded guilty in the case to charges including RICO conspiracy and assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, and await sentencing.

The arrests in this case were made as part of the Detroit One Initiative, a collaborative effort between law enforcement and the community to reduce homicide and other violent crime in Detroit, and through the lead efforts of the Comprehensive Violence Reduction Partnership Task Force, which consists of representatives of the ATF, Detroit Police Department, Michigan State Police, Michigan Department of Corrections and the FBI. By working collaboratively, local, state and federal law enforcement are striving to maximize their ability to identify and arrest the persons and groups initiating the violence in Detroit. These convictions are a tangible and significant result of this joint effort.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Joseph Wheatley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Graveline and Louis Gabel of the Eastern District of Michigan.

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