Tag: fbi

Sherneskie Bell guilty of possessing child pornography

A Jefferson Parish jury on Wednesday (July 13) found Sherneskie Bell guilty as charged of possession of pornography involving juveniles under age 13.

Bell, 62, of Kenner, downloaded about 2,700 images, videos and GIFs to his mobile phone over a period of months in 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office concluded. The images included children as young as 3 years old.

The Kenner Police Department opened the investigation of Bell in October 2018, following an argument he had with his teenage girlfriend after she heard that he had nude photographs of her on his mobile phone.

She fled to her home with the phone, unlocked it and discovered the pornographic images involving juveniles. Her sister promptly brought the phone to the Kenner Police Department.

Detectives also found a notebook in his apartment in which he listed pornographic websites and search terms for search engines. Bell wrote of marrying girls as young as 12 years old.

In testimony on Wednesday, Bell told jurors that his girlfriend stole his mobile phone and downloaded the pornographic images to frame him. He also asserted that his coworkers sometimes used his phone. Bell also suggested that his girlfriend and her sister manipulated data in his mobile phone to show the images were downloaded over a period of months.

In rebuttal, the prosecution team provided expert testimony from the Sheriff’s Office’s Digital Forensic Unit, showing that it would have been impossible for Bell’s ex-girlfriend to have the expertise to manipulate the download dates in a matter of hours to show the images were obtained over a period of months.

The jury, which was seated on Tuesday, deliberated about 45 minutes in reaching its unanimous verdict. Judge Stephen Grefer of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Bell on Aug. 10.

Assistant District Attorneys Blaine Moncrief and Lynn Schiffman prosecuted the case.


‘Harvey Hustlers’ narcotics supplier sentenced to life for Marrero murder

A judge on Monday (Dec. 2) sentenced Alcus Smith to life in prison for his conviction of killing Donte Hall in Marrero.

Smith, 32, of Harvey, was convicted by a jury on Oct. 31 of the second-degree murder of Hall, 22, who was shot multiple times in the 2600 block of Pelican Bay Boulevard on Nov. 15, 2013.

Smith was a narcotics trafficker who supplied the notorious West Bank gang “Harvey Hustlers,” according to evidence presented at trial. Smith killed Hall believing that Hall cheated him in a narcotics transaction, according to trial evidence.

Smith already is serving a 65-year sentence for his 2015 conviction of racketeering, conspiracy to distribute narcotics and distribution of cocaine. Smith was charged in a case against the Harvey Hustlers that was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

After denying post-verdict motions and hearing impact testimony from Hall’s mother on Monday, retired Judge Raymond Bigelow, sitting pro tempore at the 24th Judicial District Court, sentenced Smith to the mandatory life sentence for killing Hall. Judge Bigelow ran the life sentence concurrent with the 65-year sentence Smith already is serving.

Assistant District Attorneys Seth Shute and Doug Freese prosecuted the case.

Metairie man nabbed in heroin distribution case convicted of narcotics, firearms offenses

A Metairie man who sold heroin to an undercover informant in New Orleans during a multi-jurisdictional investigation that led to Jefferson Parish was convicted Thursday night (Jan. 19) of possessing and distributing the illegal narcotic and of illegally possessing four firearms.

Julius Hankton, 27, is guilty of possession with intent to distribute heroin, possession of oxycodone and four counts of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

A Jefferson Parish jury deliberated for 40 minutes before unanimously convicting him as charged of all counts. Judge Donnie Rowan of the 24th Judicial District Court set Hankton’s sentencing for Feb. 17.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation New Orleans Violent Crime Task Force investigated Hankton beginning in 2014, using an undercover informant to purchase small quantities of heroin on four occasions, according to testimony. The task force comprises members of the FBI and local law enforcement agencies, including the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana State Police.

Hankton, who lived in New Orleans when the investigation began, moved into an apartment with his girlfriend in the 1600 block of Clearview Parkway. As such, task force members obtained a warrant from a Jefferson Parish magistrate commissioner to search the apartment.

About 6 a.m., on March 19, 2015, FBI SWAT members and sheriff’s deputies served the warrant, surprising Hankton, his 4-year-old son and his girlfriend as they slept.

During the search agents found more than 21 grams of heroin, eight tablets of oxycodone and the firearms. They also seized more than $20,000 in cash.

The firearms included a fully loaded 9mm pistol with extended magazine, which was set on a dresser, a 10mm pistol on the floor next to his bed, a .45-caliber pistol found in the dresser drawer and a fully loaded AK-47 assault rifle in a duffle bag under the bed.

Hankton is barred from possessing firearms because of his prior convictions in New Orleans of aggravated battery, possession of cocaine, carrying a firearm while in possession of a controlled dangerous substance and illegal possession of stolen firearms.

Hankton, who did not testify, denied the crimes. His attorneys argued there was no evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the drugs and guns belonged to him.

Assistant District Attorneys Andrew DeCoste and Douglas Rushton prosecuted the case.

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Jefferson Parish prosecutors in Harvey Hustlers cases receive top FBI awards

Two Jefferson Parish prosecutors who are working with the joint local and federal task force that dismantled the notorious Harvey Hustlers gang, sending dozens of extremely violent drug dealers to prison for as long as 120 years, received 2016 FBI Director’s Awards for their ongoing work in the case.

Assistant District Attorneys Doug Freese and Seth Shute were among the New Orleans-area local and federal law enforcement officials to receive the award in the Outstanding Criminal Investigation category on Thursday (Sept. 15) from FBI Director James Comey, during a ceremony in Washington D.C.

Members of the FBI New Orleans Gang Task Force, which initiated the investigation seven years ago, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office also were named to receive the awards.

The Director’s Awards, considered to be among the most prestigious accolades within the FBI, are given annually to Bureau employees and others to recognize their exemplary contributions and service to their communities. This year’s recipients include men and women who investigated deadly terrorist and cyber attacks, designed innovative technology and training and provided exceptional service to colleagues and victims of crime, according to the FBI.

Read the FBI New Orleans announcement here.

Considered the scourge of some West Bank neighborhoods, the Harvey Hustlers traces its roots to the 1980s in the Scotsdale subdivision, from where a core group of members oversaw a narcotics distribution ring. The gang enlisted affiliates from other West Bank neighborhoods to help import the narcotics into Jefferson Parish from as far as Texas and to distribute it in the area.

The Harvey Hustlers had an enforcement arm known as the Murder Squad, which used violence to protect its illegal activities. Numerous homicides were tied to the gang, including those of an 81-year-old Bridge City woman and a 58-year-old Marrero man, neither of whom was the intended target.

The FBI New Orleans Gang Task Force and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office initiated the investigation in 2009, leading to more than 65 criminal indictments in state and federal courts. Since the investigation began, Jefferson Parish saw a 39-percent decrease in its homicide rate through 2015, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana and the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office collaborated in deciding the jurisdiction in which the cases would be prosecuted, depending on whether federal or state law could provide the more appropriate punishment.

Convictions in Jefferson Parish’s 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna, and U.S. District Court in New Orleans, led to sentences ranging from five years to life in prison. The state and federal charges ranged from heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine distribution, racketeering, conspiracy to distribute narcotics, firearms offenses, homicide and murder-in-aid of racketeering.

In the Jefferson Parish, Freese and Shute prosecuted more than 30 Harvey Hustlers and their affiliates. Of them, 21 defendants were charged last year by a state grand jury in a sweeping 30-count racketeering and conspiracy case that includes a pending second-degree murder case.

Among them was Robert Williams, a Harvey Hustlers leader who was convicted at trial and sentenced in January to 120 years in prison. Each of the Harvey Hustlers who already had prior criminal convictions received no less than 20-year prison sentences in the Jefferson Parish cases.

This is the second time this year the Harvey Hustlers task force has been recognized. In February, New Orleans’ Metropolitan Crime Commission awarded the task force its 2016 Excellence in Law Enforcement Award.

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Harvey Hustlers gang associate pleads guilty to narcotics charges

A Harvey man with ties to the Harvey Hustlers street gang has pleaded guilty to narcotics trafficking offenses in exchange for a 12-year prison sentence.

Glendale A. Houston, 30, pleaded guilty as charged on Monday (July 25) to two counts of distribution of cocaine, possession of heroin and possession of methamphetamine, court records show.

Judge Conn Regan of the 24th Judicial District Court, who accepted the plea, sentenced Houston to 12 years in prison on each count and ran them concurrently.

Houston was arrested in connection with the local and federal investigation of the Harvey Hustlers, whose members and affiliates were responsible for the movement of illegal narcotics into the West Jefferson area.

The gang, whose roots date to the 1980s, originated in Harvey’s Scotsdale neighborhood and used violence and even homicide to protect its illegal activities. Several of Houston’s associates, including relatives, were prosecuted in U.S. District Court in New Orleans for their involvement in Harvey Hustler activities.

In Jefferson Parish, a grand jury handed up a two-count indictment on Feb. 25, charging Houston with distributing cocaine on two dates in March 2013, court records show. That prosecution concluded on Monday with his guilty pleas.

Houston separately pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine and possession of heroin on Monday. Judge Regan sentenced Houston to 10 years in prison on each count, and ran them concurrently with each other and the 12-year sentence he received for the cocaine conviction.

That case stems from his Feb. 10 arrest in Harvey, where officers conducting a narcotics investigation attempted to stop the vehicle Houston was driving, according to the arrest report. Houston led the officers on a brief pursuit through a residential neighborhood.

When he stopped, he threw a large amount of currency to a woman and told her, “Take the money so the police can’t take it,” according to the report.

The officers got the $6,729, in denominations consistent with street-level narcotics sales, along with 2.9 grams of methamphetamine and .6 gram of heroin. He also had a small amount of marijuana, leading to a misdemeanor charge to which he pleaded guilty on Monday and received a 10-day jail sentence.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New Orleans Gang Task Force and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office investigated the Harvey Hustlers. Assistant District Attorney Doug Freese handled the Houston case.

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