Jury Convicts Kansas City Men in $20 Million Drug Trafficking Conspiracy, Murder-for-Hire Scheme
KANSAS CITY, MO—Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that two Kansas City, Mo., men were convicted by a trial jury today of their roles in a multi-million dollar drug-trafficking conspiracy and an unsuccessful murder-for-hire conspiracy.
Andre Taylor, also known as “Dre,” 48, of Kansas City, was found guilty of four counts contained in a Feb. 25, 2014, federal indictment. Victor Vickers, also known as “VV,” 29, of Kansas City, was found guilty of a lesser included offense in the drug-trafficking conspiracy.
Taylor was found guilty of participating in a conspiracy to distribute large quantities of marijuana and cocaine between Feb. 1, 2010, and Feb. 25, 2014. Vickers was found guilty of participating in a conspiracy to distribute less than 100 kilograms of marijuana. Taylor was also convicted of participating in a conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, aiding and abetting the distribution of cocaine and possessing a machine gun in furtherance of a crime of violence (the murder-for-hire conspiracy).
Evidence introduced during the trial indicated that Taylor was the head of a major cocaine and marijuana distribution organization in the metropolitan area. A Mexico-based cartel supplied narcotics to the drug-trafficking organization and Taylor sometimes traveled to Mexico to buy drugs for resale within the Kansas City area. Taylor boasted that he personally sent $20 million back to Mexico. Numerous shipments of cocaine, totaling more than 100 kilograms, were transported to Kansas City from Mexico.
Taylor’s relatives and others assisted him in recruiting buyers and arranging sales. His base of operation was in the 2300 block of Hardesty in Kansas City, Mo., where his family owned three houses next door to each other. Confidential informants participated in numerous controlled buys of narcotics. Many of those buys took place in, around, or outside of the three Taylor houses.
In intercepted telephone conversations, Taylor boasted of spending millions of dollars to buy drugs to sell in the Kansas City area. Based on telephone interceptions, a murder-for-hire plot was discovered during the conspiracy. The intended victim was a co-conspirator and former trusted associate of Taylor’s.
In addition to Taylor and Vickers, 17 co-defendants have pleaded guilty to charges contained in the federal indictment.
Drug Trafficking Conspiracy
A confidential source completed a series of controlled purchases of cocaine from Taylor and his co-conspirators in 2011 and 2012.
On Sept. 27, 2012, search warrants were executed at the three homes owned by the Taylor family at 23rd and Hardesty. Approximately 227 pounds of marijuana was seized, as well as an assault rifle and body-armor-piercing bullets. In addition, on Nov. 30, 2012, more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana, which was intended for delivery to Taylor, was recovered from a truck and trailer being driven by a co-conspirator. This co-conspirator told investigators that he had delivered marijuana to Kansas City to Taylor seven or eight times, and he had transported $500,000 to $700,000 to Arizona for these drug shipments.
FBI agents conservatively estimate that Taylor was responsible for distributing at least 120 kilograms of cocaine and at least 2,000 pounds of marijuana, either himself or through one of his many confederates.
The intended victim of the murder-for-hire conspiracy was co-defendant William E. Brown, also known as “Billy,” 43, of Kansas City. Taylor believed that Brown, a one-time trusted associate, stole $500,000 and more than 13 kilograms of cocaine from Taylor’s downtown loft apartment. (Taylor also maintained a residence at a luxury apartment on the County Club Plaza.) Taylor sought to hire a “hit man” to do the job and contacted co-defendant Kenneth Vaughn Cooper, 31, of Kansas City.
Brown pleaded guilty to his role in the drug-trafficking conspiracy and admitted that he purchased at least five kilograms of cocaine from Taylor. Cooper pleaded guilty to his role in the murder-for-hire conspiracy and admitted that he was supposed to be paid a share of the stolen $500,000 for committing the murder.
On Aug. 18, 2012, FBI agents intercepted a telephone call in which Taylor said, “it’s necessary to kill him,” referring to Brown.
On Aug. 21, 2012, agents intercepted a phone call between Cooper and Taylor. Taylor said he had a “hammer” at “23rd and Hardesty” and Cooper said he was going to come and get it. Later that day, Jackson County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Cooper on outstanding warrants while he was a passenger in a truck driven by his father. As deputies approached the vehicle they could smell burnt marijuana coming from inside. When the vehicle was searched, deputies recovered a firearms case behind the driver’s seat that contained a machine gun—a MAC-10 style homemade .45-caliber firearm with no serial number—and a metal stick magazine with 18 live rounds of .45-caliber ammunition.
Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., deliberated for about 10 hours over two days before returning the guilty verdicts to U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner, ending a trial that began Monday, Sept. 2, 2014.
Under federal statutes, Taylor and Vickers are each subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stefan C. Hughes and Cindi Woolery. It was investigated by the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Jackson County Drug Task Force, the Lee’s Summit, Mo., Police Department, and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.