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Vice Lords ‘elite’ convicted on all charges
Oct 17, 2012 4:00 pm
A federal judge Monday convicted a high-ranking member of the Vice Lords gang.
Monique “Money” Smith, 41, of Cookeville was convicted of all charges, which included distributing crack cocaine, distributing powder cocaine, distributing marijuana, illegal possession of firearms as a felon and using a weapon to facilitate drug trafficking.
Jurors returned guilty verdicts after about 3 1/2 hours of deliberation, following a weeklong trial.
“We’re pleased with the verdict,” said Lebanon police Chief Scott Bowen. “We felt like there was enough evidence there…I fully believe that we will end up getting guilty verdicts in all of these cases.”
Smith was one of 17 individuals charged after a two-year investigation involving the FBI, the Lebanon Police Department, the Wilson County Sheriff’s Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
“This verdict is a reminder of our tireless commitment to combating criminal street gangs in the Middle Tennessee area,” said U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin. “The conviction of a gang member who operated largely in suburban areas like Cookeville and Lebanon should serve as notice that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our local, state and federal law enforcement partners will bring our combined resources to bear anywhere, at any time, when gang members traffic in drugs and carry guns. The message is clear – gang crime will not be tolerated.”
Testimony at trial confirmed Smith was a “five-star elite,” or high-ranking member, of the Vice Lords and was largely responsible for coordinating the gang’s activity within the state.
According to Bowen, authorities estimate that 50-100 Vice Lords members currently live in Lebanon. He attributes much of Lebanon’s violent crime to gang members.
Orlando “C Nut” Steverson, 30, of Lebanon, who is still awaiting trial on charges stemming from the investigation that netted Smith, is also awaiting trial on an unrelated murder charge from an alleged killing in June 2011 in Upton Heights.
Cory “Big Real” Neal, 41, of Lebanon, who is also still awaiting trial on charges stemming from the investigation that netted Smith, pleaded guilty in 2005 to voluntary manslaughter in a homicide dating back to 1998.
“This is why we want these guys – they’re violent criminals,” said Bowen.
Smith has two prior serious drug offenses and faces a mandatory life sentence for participating in a drug conspiracy. He faces an additional five years in prison for possessing a gun during a drug crime. Sentencing is set for Jan. 4.
Staff writer Sara McManamy-Johnson can be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 16 or email@example.com.