More Nation of Islam madness...
By KITTY CAPARELLA
THEY MANIPULATED politicians.
They misused government funds.
They extorted businesses.
They ripped off drug dealers.
And they claimed investigators were racists and anti-Islam.
Sound like the ongoing public corruption investigation?
That was the controversial, violent Black Mafia of 30-some years ago, which provided the fertile seedbed for a crop of crooks being harvested by law enforcement today.
At least three men in the current probe - Muslim cleric Shamsud-din Ali, Dawud Bey and Eugene Hearn, known as Fareed Ahmed - can trace their roots to the Black Mafia.
Ali and Bey were convicted in related cases this year, and Ahmed was identified by authorities as a "person of interest" regarding city-related contracts.
The trio are cited in Black Brothers Inc., The Violent Rise and Fall of Philadelphia's Black Mafia, a $14.95 book released today by Milo Books Ltd. of Great Britain.
Author Sean Patrick Griffin has delivered a richly detailed narrative of the murderous history of the city's first African-American crime syndicate, initially ignored by law enforcement.
The Black Mafia emerged from violent gangs amidst the racial turmoil of the mid-1960s. Its membership grew to 200 members and 100 associates in 1974. Then, prosecutions followed through the mid-1980s.
Griffin, an ex-Philly cop-turned-criminology professor at Pennsylvania State University in Abington, drew on hundreds of interviews, court records, documents, news accounts and confidential law-enforcement files to document his 461-page account, which has 117 pages of footnotes and 72 photos and illustrations.
The prof even obtained the FBI file of the late Black Mafia "godfather" Jeremiah Shabazz, onetime minister of Temple No. 12 in the Nation of Islam, who protected the gangsters in his so-called "hoodlum temple." Shabazz was never arrested.
In appendices devoted to the current probe, Griffin described how Ali, Hearn and others - on the street and in jail - continue to impact the city, its politics and generations of young African- Americans, such as Bey, the son of a deceased Black Mafia founder, Roosevelt "Spooks" Fitzgerald, known as Roosevelt Bey.
Sons and nephews of the Black Mafia created the Junior Black Mafia in the late 1980s. They, in turn, influenced Ram Squad, which morphed into the 20-member Kaboni Savage-Gerald Thomas drug network, indicted last year. Bey pleaded guilty on Feb. 7 to federal drug charges in the Savage-Thomas case.
Griffin called the Black Mafia, which was responsible for more than 40 murders, the "most ruthless, malevolent killers ever spawned in the U.S., who became untouchable because no one dared testify against them."
A photo of the headless corpse of George "Bo" Abney, a major drug dealer who failed to pay enough Black Mafia street tax is included in the book.
Initially, gang members ripped off crap games, shook down drug dealers and committed other crimes, honing ruthless, violent reputations mainly in South Philadelphia.
By 1968, Sam Christian, Eugene "Bo" Baynes, Ronald Harvey, Robert "Nudie" Mims, Fitz-gerald and nine others adopted the name Black Mafia and were enlisting recruits.
With Christian's OK, Baynes was soon conducting meetings for 40 to 60 members. A secretary took minutes at rotating locations. Rules and procedures were established, including a mandatory oath never to divulge information to law enforcement. Members even adopted procedures for applying for government funds, according to Griffin.
Squads were organized for murders, drug trafficking, extortions, armored-car robberies, loan-sharking, numbers and credit- card scams.
Protected by pols, dirty lawyers and community leaders, they worked and sparred with the Italian La Cosa Nostra, the Irish K&A Gang and New York-based Frank Matthews, one of the nation's largest narcotics dealers with a distribution network in 21 states.
Between 1972-1974, the Drug Enforcement Administration estimated the Black Mafia controlled 60 percent of the heroin trade in the city.
"They want it all - all the heroin traffic," a drug dealer complained, according to Griffin. "They be their own little army."
Their sphere of influence stretched from New York to Chicago and Atlanta to Detroit, and their crimes drew national notoriety.
Christian, who sported a Superfly image, and Harvey were the two most feared gangsters in the Black Mafia, earning spots on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.
Griffin details one murderous rampage after another:
• 1971: The Dubrow Furniture store owner on South Street would not pay protection, resulting in one employee dead, two wounded, one set on fire, 24 tied up and doused with gasoline and five fires set inside the store. Led by Robert "Nudie" Mims with others.
• 1972: Philly's top heroin and cocaine supplier Tyrone Palmer, known as "Mr. Millionaire," was fatally shot in the face by Christian in Atlantic City's crowded Club Harlem on Easter Sunday. Led by Christian with others.
• 1973: Rival Hannafi Muslims were attacked in Washington, D.C., in a house donated by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Three adults killed, two wounded, and four babies, from nine to 22 months, drowned. Led by Ronald Harvey with six others.
• 1973: Major Coxson, a narcotics financier, a onetime Camden mayoral candidate and entrepreneur, and a child were fatally shot execution style, and two others were wounded and blinded in Pennsauken. Led by Christian and Harvey.
• 1974, Hannafi killer-turned-informant James "Bubbles" Price, bound and hanged in a vacant Holmesburg Prison cell, his testicles crushed and a knife thrust in his rectum.
But on South Street, the Black Mafia put up a good front. In 1973, Black Mafia gangsters - James Fox, Hearn and others - created Black 'B' Inc., a nonprofit that claimed it sought to stop gang killings and clean up trash.
Once jailed, these gangsters, like the notorious Russell Barnes, thought they could come home and take back their turf. Like Barnes, they usually ended up dead.
Hearn wised up. Released in 1980, he first turned to drugs, then politics. His political work quickly proved a liability for candidates. He later assumed a low profile in the construction and trash businesses.
But recently, his name surfaced as "a person of interest" in the ongoing corruption probe in connection with Odyssey Waste, of which Hearn is chief executive, and West Insurance, of which he's vice president, according to Griffin.
Griffin found that Ali first learned about the politics of public funding in 1969. Known as Clarence Fowler, the ex-gang member was handpicked by then-Municipal Judge Paul Dandridge to direct Safe Streets, Inc.
The anti-gang program was the first of three government-funded agencies to be run by Black Mafia leaders. One of Safe Street's first checks, from $100,000 in donations, was sent to Temple No. 12.
Prominent figures such as then-District Attorney Arlen Specter and attorney James Giles, now chief justice for U.S. District Court, supported Safe Streets and helped it to receive nearly $1 million by 1974 from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, plus private money. There was little or no oversight of the money.
The FBI later discovered that Black Mafia members were using Safe Street's credit cards, after a secretary - the wife of a Black Mafia figure - had "verified" their employment, even though they did not work for Safe Streets.
Fowler was working at Safe Streets when he was arrested in the 1970 fatal shooting of Dr. Clarence Smith of Wayland Baptist Church in North Philadelphia.
He was convicted of murder and, as a Fruit of Islam captain, converted inmates to the Nation of Islam and drilled them in martial arts while at Holmesburg Prison.
In 1976, his murder conviction was overturned because of a faulty photo lineup shown to the witness, Smith's daughter, who was also threatened. The D.A.'s office decided not to retry the case.
By the time he was released from Graterford State Prison, he had changed his name to Shamsud-din Ali. But he quickly demonstrated his political prowess:
State Rep. Leroy Irvis persuaded the Legislature to award $450,000 to Ali for his wrongful imprisonment.