Nearly two dozen alleged members of a prison gang that started in Maryland and spread across the country have been indicted on federal racketeering charges, including accusations of murder for hire, armed robbery and drug running, officials announced Wednesday.
The members of Dead Man Inc., who refer to themselves as "dawgs" and espouse an anti-government philosophy, used contraband cellphones to direct activities and spread gang membership into South Baltimore, eastern Baltimore County, northern Anne Arundel County and several other states, authorities said. The 27-count indictment alleges that members shot and killed four people and conspired to kill others.
"On our streets, this organization has been involved in street robberies, home invasions, property thefts, intimidation, assaults — you name it, they're involved in it," said Randall Jones Sr., an Anne Arundel County police commander. "The northern part of our county has been plagued by these individuals, and this is a major blow to this organization."
Roark was close with members of the Black Guerrilla Family, law enforcement officials say, but that gang's rules prohibited him from joining because he is white. With the gang's blessing, officials say, Roark formed a gang at the Jessup prison in the late 1990s that, among other things, carried out killings for the BGF.
Experts say the gang, known by the acronym DMI, offered another option for white inmates beyond white supremacists or biker gangs, and its membership grew to include prisoners affiliated with those organizations. There was a careful recruitment and screening process, with a top-down militarized structure that placed commanders in each prison, officials say. Members contend that their purpose is to foster brotherhood.
Dead Man Inc. quickly earned a reputation for violence and a willingness to carry out attacks for drugs or money. Though not as well known as the Bloods and the Crips, the gang has been linked to a series of high-profile incidents and was profiled in 2009 on the History Channel's "Gangland" program.
Corrections officials say they have confirmed more than 500 DMI members in Maryland prison facilities, about half the number of Bloods but seven times the membership of MS-13, a Hispanic gang that has garnered headlines for ruthless crimes.
This week's indictment links the gang to four killings in 2009: the death of James Flanary, 23, in the 3900 block of S. Hanover St. on Feb. 16; the killing June 2 of Tony Geiger, 41, in the unit block of Old Riverside Road; the slaying Sept. 18 of 20-year-old Eugene Chambers in the 1600 block of Cypress St.; and the killing of Walter Milewski, 31, in the 4800 block of Carmella Drive in Halethorpe on Sept. 19.
At least one of those charged, Dane Shives, 22, of Glen Burnie, is awaiting trial on separate charges. He is accused of murder in a double shooting in Brooklyn last year.
U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein said the case began 18 months ago when Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger visited his office to outline a murder case that he believed had a broader scope.
Officials praised the results of increased cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement and commended prison officials for sharing intelligence that helped police solve cases and work across jurisdictions.
"When you look at the causes of violent crime, in many cases you find a connection to gangs," Rosenstein said. "We believe the key to continuing to reduce the violent crime and murder rate here in Baltimore City and throughout the state is to target the gangs and the leaders of the gangs who are fomenting this violence."
An effort by prison officials years ago to disrupt the gang's leadership sent two top members to out-of-state facilities, which authorities said only served to broaden the gang's reach.
One estimate put Dead Man Inc. membership in the thousands, in states that include Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, New York and Virginia. At Wednesday's news conference, Rosenstein added Pennsylvania and Texas to the list, and the FBI's recently released Gang Threat Assessment included North Carolina.
Ryan Shifflet of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Gang Investigation Network, a group of law enforcement officers that shares gang intelligence, has said DMI "gained notoriety by becoming a murder-for-hire group, or doing hits or attacking other inmates in the prison system for money or contraband."
Though once aligned with the Black Guerrilla Family, the indictment says, DMI "has gone through sporadic periods of conflict with other gangs, including the Bloods and the BGF, both in prisons and on the streets."
Roark, who is accused of directing a number of assaults on inmates and others that are detailed in court papers, has achieved godlike status among followers, Shifflet said.
"You've got tons of inmates who've never laid eyes on the man, but they know who he is and have heard he's 10 feet tall and bulletproof," Shifflet said.
Rosenstein said 11 of the defendants named in the federal indictment were in custody, and that authorities had tracked down seven who were not in prison and were looking for the others.
Four of those charged are women accused of helping distribute crack cocaine.
According to the indictment, corrupt corrections officers aided their crimes.
With the indictment, federal prosecutors have in recent years brought major cases against the state's biggest gangs, including the Crips, the Black Guerrilla Family, various subsets of the Bloods, MS-13 and the Latin Kings.
Gov. Martin O'Malley, in a statement Wednesday, called the DMI indictments "a major step forward in protecting the public's safety and increasing collaboration among law enforcement agencies."
Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said: "We'd like to say this wipes out DMI, [but] we know what the realities are. There's still incredible challenges back in our communities."
Still, he said, "Every time we do this, it gives us another leg up on their expansion into our neighborhoods and making the city and state safer."