In the midst of what prosecutors say was a bloody summer for a Baltimore gang known as Triple-C, Correy Cawthorn sent a message to a fellow member accompanied by a picture of himself “covered in firearms.”
“We really beefin with the whole world, yo,” wrote Cawthorn, who was 20 years old at the time.
Now members of Triple-C, or CCC, are accused of being behind at least 18 murders and 28 attempted murders between 2015 and 2020 in a racketeering indictment unsealed Wednesday and announced Thursday by federal prosecutors, the ATF and city police.
The volume of violence attributed to the group over five years is the most chronicled in a single indictment in recent memory, and spans the city.
Cawthorn, who Baltimore Police have said they created a task force to take down, is charged with at least five of those murders and several other murder attempts, some that took place at dice games. His own father was fatally shot in the summer of 2018 by rivals, and prosecutors say that Cawthorn retaliated by trying to kill those responsible.
The charges outline more than two dozen other unsuccessful killings attributed to the gang, including last year’s attempted murder of eight people in the 300 block of McMechen St. during the early days of the pandemic lockdown.
Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner said at a news conference Thursday that Triple-C operated “essentially an organized crime business” and were “as organized and savvy as they are violent and relentless.”
Tim Jones, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Baltimore Field Office, said the case was an example of the behind-the-scenes investigative work being undertaken to piece together cases.
“Even if you’re not seeing a [news] release, tweet, or post from us every day, you can be rest assured that there is still crucial hard work happening constantly to reduce violent crime in Baltimore city,” Jones said.
Cawthorn’s attorney declined to comment.
According to the indictment, the gang’s initials are an abbreviation for “Cruddy Conniving Crutballs,” and that it was founded by a man named Gary Creek in 2014 as an alternative to the Black Guerrilla Family gang, with a base in the Darley Park area of East Baltimore.
The indictment alleges that Creek, 39, known as “Hov,” took contract murders on behalf of CCC and ordered other members to fulfill the contracts. Triple-C members “enhanced their status within the gang by carrying out acts of violence against rivals and earning their ‘C’,” the indictment said. They also imposed a tax on certain drug traffickers to operate in territory they controlled.
It further alleges that they promoted the gang by giving away clothing such as t-shirts and hats, and supporting rap artists. “Ain’t no Crip, ain’t no Blood, I’m Triple-C baby,” a rapper says in a video that prosecutors say features members and associates dancing and waving firearms.
Creek’s attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The gang is connected to even more violence than alleged in the new indictment — one of its alleged members, Rashaud Nesmith, 20, was charged early last year with killing three people during a series of carjackings not included in the CCC indictment, apparently a separate enterprise. Among those cases is the 2019 shooting of off-duty Baltimore Police Sgt. Isaac Carrington in an attempted robbery.
Members seemed undeterred by the efforts of local law enforcement.
“[Authorities] keep sending us to the state when we . .. federal,” alleged member Michael Chester reportedly said.
Then, when federal authorities issued a warrant for Cawthorn, he jumped on Instagram and taunted law enforcement: “Feds want me so bad but they don’t have a clue . . . . Ain’t no bitch on this earth going to make me put this .40 down.”
The indictment does not give detailed evidence linking the men to the crimes, and offers a motive in only some. The oldest murder charged in the new indictment dates to Oct. 27, 2015, when prosecutors say Darrell Carter, described as a “lieutenant” in Triple-C, murdered Quinton Heard, 20, in the 1500 block of Rutland Ave.
A year later, in November 2016, they say Creek and Carter murdered Jamere Ricks, 19, in the 1700 block of E. 25th St.
The violence attributed to the group escalates in the summer of 2017, when at least five people were killed in the span of two months. Cawthorn and other members of CCC allegedly murdered Antonio Griffin, 26, and Tereze Pinkney, 22, and shot at two others during a drive-by in the 1200 block of Bonaparte Ave in June. Cawthorn is accused of murdering 16-year-old Thomas Johnson in the 4100 block of Chesterfield Ave. on August 17.
The Sun reported at the time that as Johnson lay dying, he refused to say who shot him, but shouted his address so his mother would be notified.
Another Triple-C member, not identified in the indictment, shot and killed Allen Rice, 22, on Aug. 20, 2017, in the 2700 block of The Alameda, and Cawthorn, Chester and Richard Grier, 20, are accused of killing Carlos Jones, 27, in the 100 block of S. Highland Ave.
Prosecutors say Cawthorn was arrested with the murder weapon in Jones’ shooting just a week later, but there is no record he was charged with the murder until now.
Chester, Desmond Butler, 23, Darien Coleman, 20, and Tyeshawn Rivers, 21, are accused of murdering Diamante Howard in April 2018 during a dice game in the 6100 block of Fortview Way. Howard had been accepted into college and was murdered just before his 20th birthday.
Cawthorn is charged with killing 38-year-old Dwayne Cheeks on June 9, 2018, also at a dice game, in the 2200 block of Germania Ave.
There were three murders allegedly committed by the gang in July 2018: the killing of Joshua Bessick, 24, on July 15 in the 2200 block of Eagle St., the killing of Rashard Queen, 20, on July 22, in the 900 block of 37th St., and the killing of 22-year-old Darius Mason on July 29 in the 6100 block of Harford Rd. Cawthorn and Rivers, along with Raekwon McCann, are accused of killing Mason.
Grier is accused of killing Vuai Green, 24, described as a rival drug dealer, in August 2018 in the 2300 block of Harford Rd. Green was shot in the head seven times, officials said, and Grier was shown on closed circuit TV running up to him. Grier already has been tried and convicted in Circuit Court for that killing, court records show.
Unidentified members of the gang allegedly killed Howard Gibson, 40, in November 2018 in the 3800 block of Echodale Ave. And in December 2018, Butler, Chester, Coleman and Dayon Jeter are accused of killing Corey Moseley, 17, in the 4900 block of Green Rose Lane.
Prosecutors say Triple-C members killed one of their own, 20-year-old Avery Rich, during a retaliatory shooting of a rival gang member in August 2019.
Rivers and others allegedly murdered Donya Short Aug. 5, 2020, in the 1700 block of McCulloh St.
And in October 2020, CCC members allegedly killed Brimar Livingston, 17, in the 5900 block of Moravia Rd.
Among the non-fatal shootings cited in the indictment and previously-filed court documents is an August 2018 incident in which Cawthorn was turned away from a Baltimore County house party and fired into a crowd, and a failed $10,000 contract killing allegedly carried out by Cawthorn and Carter at Creek’s direction.
The indictment cites several instances of gang members’ bravado regarding their alleged violence. “We don’t do attempts [attempted murders], your bitch a-- just got lucky,” one reputed member, Devonte “Finely” Monroe, wrote on Instagram in 2017. Monroe was killed in a shootout with rival gang members in August 2017, the indictment says.
Many of the defendants charged with violent crimes had prior arrests for guns and violence. Cawthorn, for example, was arrested with a gun in 2017, and received a probation after conviction and a five-year suspended sentence. The outcomes of other cases are stripped from view in electronic court records, following a law passed by the General Assembly to remove cases in which there was no conviction.
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Rivers had an attempted murder case in 2016 sent to juvenile court, where records are sealed and the outcome is unknown. In 2019, he was charged with a handgun offense and received probation after conviction.
Creek, the alleged founder of CCC, was charged in 2019 through a federal criminal complaint, which cited recorded telephone calls in which Creek talked about keeping people in line and taxing drug dealers in the area.
“They ain’t in line, they get put in line,” Creek said. Referring to the tax, he said: “Thirty percent apply to them too though. ... Everybody taxation from representation.”
The group also engaged in dealing of crack cocaine, though prosecutors described that as not their primary mission. Sixteen other members and associates of Triple-C were charged in January 2019 with conspiracy to distribute narcotics.
Lenzner, the prosecutor, said such large-scale violent crime cases take time to put together. He said that’s why authorities have expanded the Project Exile program to seek longer sentences for high-target gun offenders.
The long-term goal, he said, is to charge violent drug trafficking organizations on narcotics charges, “then work back to solve historical homicides and non-fatal shootings.”
Lenzner said while some co-defendants were already in custody, three were apprehended this week.