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Gangster Disciples boss Larry Hoover directed gang appointments from supermax prison, feds say
Chicago Tribune - 1/27/2021
Notorious Gangster Disciples chairman Larry Hoover was convicted in federal court in Chicago two decades ago of continuing to run his criminal empire even as he was serving a 200-year sentence in state prison for murder.
Since then, Hoover, 70, has been serving out six life terms at the supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado, a facility that houses convicted terrorists and mobsters and is touted as the most secure in the country.
But a new federal indictment filed this week in federal court in southern Illinois suggests Hoover has still been calling shots for the gang he helped establish in Chicago in the 1960s.
The indictment unsealed Monday accused seven state and national leaders of the Gangster Disciples of racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking, witness intimidation and multiple murders — including the 2018 slaying of a 65-year-old ranking member of the gang on Chicago’s South Side.
Though Hoover was not accused of wrongdoing, the indictment alleged that in September 2014, Gangster Disciples members Anthony Dobbins and Warren Griffin discussed how Hoover had recently appointed them as “board members,” a powerful position directly beneath Hoover that gave them authority over the gang’s national operation.
The charges do not state how Hoover may have made such a decision given that he was behind bars in solitary confinement.
Dobbins, 53, is currently serving a sentence for drug trafficking at the same prison as Hoover, and isn’t due to be released until 2033, records show. Griffin, 51, is also in federal prison in Kentucky on a separate case, and is set to be released in 2025.
Both Dobbins and Griffin are charged in the new indictment with racketeering conspiracy and murder.
The indictment, meanwhile, comes as Hoover has been seeking an early release from his federal sentence under the First Step law passed in 2018 that has already led to reduced sentences for several of his co-defendants.
Hoover’s attorney, Justin Moore, said in a statement that Hoover appeared to have been added to the new indictment “gratuitously and without basis” in an effort to spurn Hoover’s request for release.
Moore said there was “absolutely no way” for inmates at Hoover’s prison to communicate anything remotely gang related to the outside world without the prison knowing about it — let alone give specific orders that would go undetected for years.
“This is a 70-year-old man in the twilight of his years, who has serious medical complications, and is seeking release to finally be with his wife, children and grandchildren after nearly 50 years of separation,” he wrote. “To have his name continuously thrown into the affairs of others and to be used as a scapegoat for criminal activity he has no connection to needs to cease.”
Among those charged in the new indictment was Frank Smith, 47, of Naperville, another Gangster Disciples board member who was convicted along with Hoover in the federal racketeering case in the late 1990s.
Smith, known by his street names “Little Frank” and “Red Beard,” was one of the organizers of a birthday celebration for Hoover in Chicago in November 2017, according to the charges.
In asking to hold Smith without bond, prosecutors said in a motion filed in Chicago on Tuesday that in the decades since his conviction, Smith’s involvement in the gang “has deepened” and that he used his newfound stature to order the April 2018 murder of a rival during a meeting in a suburban St. Louis park.
In that murder, which took place in broad daylight and “within sight of a children’s playground,” more than 70 shots were fired, including rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle, prosecutors said. The attack left one victim, Leroy Allen, dead at the scene, and two others were badly wounded.
In a raid on Smith’s home last year, federal agents found numerous firearms, a library of hard-copy Gangster Disciples literature, and a cellphone that “revealed years’ worth of gang-related communications,” including detailed efforts by Smith “to identify and retaliate against witnesses,” prosecutors said.
Smith was also captured on federal wiretaps talking with open “hostility” toward government witnesses, including one intercepted call where he allegedly “remarked about a celebrity defendant believed to be cooperating,” the motion stated.
“The longer it takes for someone to whack his ass, the worse things are going to be,” Smith allegedly said on the call.
The indictment also accused Griffin and Dobbins of killing Ernest “Don Smokey” Wilson, a rival board member, during a dispute over power on Chicago’s South Side, according to the indictment.
Wilson, 65, was shot in the face near his home in the 7100 block of South Euclid Avenue, the Chicago Tribune reported at the time. Officers found him unresponsive in the street in front of a midsize apartment building when checking the area following reports of gunfire.
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