U.S. Attorney's Office
Eastern District of New York
(718) 254-7000
March 18, 2015

The Leader and Two Members of Folk Nation Gang Operating in the Ebbets Field Houses in Brooklyn Convicted of Racketeering and Murder

Yesterday, following a three-week trial, the defendants Yasser Ashburn, Jamal Laurent, and Trevelle Merritt were found guilty by a jury in Brooklyn federal court of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, including as racketeering acts the murders of Courtney Robinson, Brent Duncan, and Dasta James, and related crimes. The defendants were members of, and committed crimes with, a violent set of the Folk Nation street gang.

The verdicts were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Diego G. Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), New York Field Office; and William J. Bratton, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD).

“Today’s verdict is a victory for the residents of the Ebbets Field Houses and the Brooklyn community,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “For far too long, the defendants and their fellow gang members terrorized this community, murdering innocent young men and committing other violent crimes in their attempt to control what they mistakenly believed was their turf. These defendants will now be held to account for their crimes.” Ms. Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York City Police Department, the agencies responsible for leading the government’s investigation.

“Street gangs breed dangerous allegiances that ultimately lead to turf battles, bloodshed, and other senseless acts of aggression against rival gang affiliates and innocent members of the public. The residents of the Ebbets Field Houses should not be plagued by this type of violent criminal behavior. Everyone has a right to live in a society that is free from violence, and today we are one step closer to restoring a sense of security for the residents of this community,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez.

For almost a decade, the defendant Yasser Ashburn led a Folk Nation set of 20 to 25 members that operated in the Ebbets Field Houses, a New York City public housing community in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. From approximately 2007 until their arrests in 2011 and 2012, the defendants were responsible for numerous acts of gang-related violence, including homicides, non-fatal shootings, and robberies in and around Crown Heights and Flatbush, and elsewhere in the tri-state area.

The government’s evidence at trial established that on April 20, 2008, a fight erupted at a birthday party held in an apartment at the Ebbets Field Houses. After Courtney Robinson entered the fight to protect his nephew who was being beaten by Folk Nation gang members, Ashburn left the melee and retrieved a handgun from the building stairwell where the gang typically stored weapons. Ashburn then returned to the apartment and shot Robinson at point blank range in the back, killing him.

Two years later, on June 19, 2010, the defendant Jamal Laurent shot and killed 18-year-old Brent Duncan while Duncan sat in his car outside party in Brooklyn. Laurent subsequently told a friend that he shot Duncan because Duncan was a member of the rival Crips gang, although no evidence established that Duncan actually belonged to that gang. Two days after the murder, NYPD officers responded to a shots-fired call at Laurent’s residence on Schenectady Avenue in Brooklyn. There, the officers found that a bullet had been fired from Laurent’s bedroom through an adjoining wall into the room of another tenant in the building. The officers entered Laurent’s room and recovered a 9-millimeter Smith and Wesson handgun hidden in a slit in the box-spring of Laurent’s bed. The NYPD Firearms Analysis Section subsequently determined that it was the same gun that Laurent had used to murder Duncan.

During a three-week period in January 2011, the defendant Trevelle Merritt and fellow gang members participated in a robbery spree that culminated in murder. In the first two robberies, Merritt and others robbed two residents of the Ebbets Field Houses of their cell phones. On January 28, 2011, Merritt, Laurent, and another man attempted to rob Dasta James at his residence on McKeever Place in Brooklyn. During the course of the robbery, James was shot in the back and head. He was then taken to Kings County Hospital, where he died.

When sentenced, on July 10, 2015, the defendants Yasser Ashburn and Jamal Laurent face mandatory life imprisonment, and the defendant Trevelle Merritt faces ten years to life.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Darren LaVerne, M. Kristin Mace, and Margaret Lee.

The Defendants:

YASSER ASHBURN, a/k/a “Indio,” “Swerve,” “Supa Swerve 6,” and “Yassen Ashburn”

  • Age: 31
  • Brooklyn, NY

JAMAL LAURENT, also known as “Tails”

  • Age: 25
  • Brooklyn, NY

TREVELLE MERRITT, also known as “Tiger”

  • Age: 22
  • Brooklyn, NY
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