Black Mafia Family kingpins push for prison release amid COVID-19 (2024)

Robert Snell|The Detroit News

Detroit— Terry Flenory, one of the Black Mafia Family cocaine kingpins from southwest Detroit who headedone of the country’s most powerful cocaine empires that reaped $270 million in profits, is leaving federal prison Tuesday and his brother is trying to join him, citing COVID-19 health concerns.

Terry and Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenorywould join a growing list of prominent felons being released in an attempt to stem the spread of COVID-19 within the nation’s prison system, illustrating the extreme break given to some convicted criminals.

Terry Flenory, 50, who oversaw the national drug ring’s Los Angeles hub, is scheduled to be released from a Kentucky federal prison on home confinement Tuesday and could soon be joined by his 51-year-old brother, a legend within the drug and rap world who oversaw operations in Atlanta.

The brothers were sentenced to 30 years in federal prison in 2008 for heading anational drug ring with ties to Mexican cartels and selling kilos of cocaine during a 15-year crime spree. But both have sought release from prison during a COVID-19 outbreak that, according to federal prison data,has killed at least 40inmates and infected more than 2,300 prisoners and staffers.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents toppled the cocaine empire in 2005 by arresting the brothers along with more than 100 co-conspirators. Investigators seized $21million worth of assets, including cash, jewelry, 13 homes in Metro Detroit, Georgia and Los Angeles, andthree dozen vehicles, including a Lincoln limousine.

Terry Flenory’s pending release comes amid continuing interest in the Black Mafia Family and support from rappers, including LL Cool J. Rapper 50 Cent is producing a cable series about the Black Mafia Family for the Starz channel.

Demetrius Flenory is a violent, fame-hungry drug baron who reveled in a lifestyle of "money, cars, houses, clothes, jewelry and ho's," according to a court filing.

"During his time in prison, Flenory continues to promote himself, and, through others his legacy as a highly successful professional drug dealer," Assistant U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison wrote in a Friday court filing. "Nothing in that promotion remotely suggests that Flenory has changed."

The brothers rose from humble origins in southwest Detroit. During his high school years, Demetrius Flenory started selling$50 rocks of crack cocaine on the Downriver streets of Ecorse.

Starting in 1990, their drug ring started distributing thousands of kilograms of cocaine across asprawling empire that grew to cities in 11 states, includingDetroit, Atlanta, Miami, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Birmingham, Alabama. The Atlanta hubalonedistributed2,500 kilos each month.

The drug ring might have lacked the innovation of other large-scale organizations like Young Boys Inc., which pioneered the use of underage drug peddlers, or the synonymous ties to Detroit, but made up for it in scope.

"They didn't earn their stripes in Detroit," said Carl Taylor, a Michigan State University sociology professor who has researched Young Boys Inc. and other gangs."They were one of world's best kept secrets in terms of gangs."

That elusiveness fueled longevity. The Black Mafia Family's empire ran from 1990 until 2005.

"I think you are a very lucky man that it took the government that long to finally put it together," Detroit U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn told Terry Flenory before sending him to prison.

The Black Mafia Family transported drugs and money across the country in cars, including a custom-built limousinewith secret compartmentsand after-market devices that expelled drug-tainted air from inside in an attempt tofoil drug-sniffing dogs.

The system was imperfect. When investigators searched the Black Mafia Family's stretchLincoln Navigator limousine, they found$580,250 hidden in the secret compartments.

Still, the drug ring collected millions of dollars in profits. The Flenory brothers and co-conspiratorsinvested the money in jewelry, real estate — including a $3 million, gated, Mediterranean mansion in Los Angeles— and cars both classic and exotic, includinga1970 Chevrolet Camaro and a 2005 Maserati.

The gang generated somuch money, the Flenory brothers needed to wash the cash.

They launderedill-gotten gains by buying jewelry from Manhattan jewelerJacob Arabov, the so-called "King of Bling." They were such frequent customers that Terry Flenory had a $1 million line of credit with the jeweler and paid $300,000 for a pinkyring.

During a July 2005 traffic stop in Illinois, troopers seized 22 pieces of jewelry from Terry Flenory and others worth more than $4.9 million. That includedwatches made by Rolex, Audemars Piguet and a 100-carat, white gold Piaget timepiece featuring 310 diamonds.

Demetrius Flenory also laundered money through his rap label and promotions business, BMF Entertainment, andco-owned JUICE Magazine. BMF Entertainment takes credit for helping launch the career of the rapperJeezy.

"BMF Entertainment was nothing more than a front for and promotion of Flenory’s drug trafficking activities," Ison, the prosecutor, wrote.

Demetrius Flenory's involvement in the hip hop industry has led to prolonged support among rappers, including LL Cool J, who advocated for a pardon in 2017.

The brothers spent three years in jail before pleading guilty and being sentenced in 2008.

Earlier this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified and as federal prison officials started releasing inmates to stem the spread of the virus, Terry Flenory was approved for release on home confinement. He has more than six years remaining on his sentence and is scheduled Tuesday to leave a Kentucky prison.

"Terry Flenory is a really good guy and anyone who knows him would agree with that," his former defense lawyer Steve Fishman said."He has served a lot of time, and I am very happy to hear he’s coming home.”

It is unclear where Terry Flenory will live once he is released from prison. He had lived in California until his arrest.

His pending release led Demetrius Flenory to seek compassionate release from a federalprison in Oregon on April 22. His lawyer argues Flenory's age andunderlying health conditions, including hypertension and heart problems, leave him susceptible to COVID-19.

Flenory is not scheduled to be released from prison until October 2031.

Calling Flenory"ubiquitous in hip hop culture," defense lawyer Wade Fink said compassionate release will help Flenory "continue to effect positive change for black youth and others all over the country — an effort he began while incarcerated by starting programs, including charity drives for financially struggling children in Detroit."

Federal prosecutors are fighting the request, which was considered Monday by U.S. District Judge David Lawson. He took the request under advisem*nt and will rule later.

Demetrius Flenory is no Robin Hood, prosecutors said. He was accused of killing two men during a fight outside Chaos nightclub in Atlanta in November 2003, according to prosecutors. One of the victims was a bodyguard for hip hop star Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs.

The homicide charges are no longer pending, Fink said. He faulted prosecutors for painting Demetrius Flenory as an Al Capone-like crime figure.

"The government assumes that a human being like Flenory is without the capacity to evolve and that a thirty-year federal prison sentence is not capable of changing an individual’s mindset, not to mention his age of 51 and the changed world he is entering," Fink wrote.


Black Mafia Family kingpins push for prison release amid COVID-19 (2024)


What was the sentence for the Black Mafia family? ›

In September 2008, both brothers were sentenced to 30 years in prison for running a nationwide cocaine-trafficking ring, which lasted from 2000 to 2005. Demetrius Flenory is serving out his sentence at Federal Correctional Institution, Sheridan and is scheduled for release on May 5, 2028, around his 60th birthday.

Who all went to jail in BMF? ›

Big Meech, Southwest Tee, and more than 100 co-conspirators were all arrested for their crimes. Meanwhile, BMF, the show, is gearing up for its third season. The hit show is set to return for another chapter in their drug-riddled story on March 1 at 8 PM EST on Starz.

Who is the real Terry from BMF? ›

Starz drama BMF stars the real-life criminal Terry Flenory (aka "Southwest T"), which has left many viewers pondering where he is today. As BMF tells the true story of the Black Mafia Crime family in the '90s, the two leads, Demetrius and Terry Flenory, are real brothers who are still alive today.

How much is Terry BMF worth? ›

Terry Flenory's Net Worth: Estimated at $40 million as of 2024. Source of Wealth: Primarily from involvement in the BMF and subsequent business ventures. Legal Status: Serving a prison sentence for federal drug trafficking charges. Relation to Big Meech: Younger brother of Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory.

Is the black Mafia family canceled? ›

BMF has been renewed for a fourth season at Starz ahead of its Season 3 premiere on Friday, March 1. Production on season four is slated to begin this spring in Atlanta.

Who is the most powerful Mafia family in the United States? ›

The FBI considers the Genovese family the largest and most powerful of the Five Families. Detective Joseph J. Coffey of the New York Organized Crime Task Force described the Genovese family as "the Ivy League of the underworld".

How many years did JBO get? ›

(WGXA) - Jarvis Havior, also known as "J Bo," the leader of a methamphetamine trafficking organization based in Milledgeville, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison as a result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation.

Who is Terry's girlfriend in BMF? ›

Since Bmf is based on the true story of the Flenorys rise to power, Many of the characters seen on the TV series are based on real lie people. Markisha Taylor is loosely based on Terry's long-term girlfriend, Tonesa Welch — The First Lady of Bmf.

Who snitched on Terry and Meech? ›

According to Netline, Omari McCree and William Marshall were the individuals who allegedly snitched on Big Meech. Police allegedly used the pair to build a case against Demetrius Flenory and his brother Southwest T for their involvement in the Black Mafia Family.

Who shot Tee in BMF? ›

When Meech finally returns, he reveals that Jay Mo allegedly shot Tee, though he suspect it could've been Lamar. Nevertheless, Terry wants Meech to solely focus on the business and leave the street violence alone.

Who are the real life members of BMF? ›

The hit show BMF — which stands for Black Mafia Family — is a series based on the true stories of Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory and Terry “Southwest Tee” Flenory.

What happened to Meech's brother Terry? ›

Terry Lee Flenory rose to prominence as one of the founders of the Black Mafia Family. He is currently serving the remaining part of his 30-year sentence under home confinement.

Is Big Meech a billionaire? ›

How rich was Big Meech? Big Meech was once considered one of the richest drug traffickers. At his peak, he has generated an estimated $270 million in illicit profits. At the peak of his personal wealth, Big Meech reportedly had a net worth of around $100 million, adjusted for inflation in 2024.

How many states did BMF have? ›

By the early 2000s, BMF had established a flashy and nightlife-driven entertainment front, expanding across the U.S., including Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee.

How did the black Mafia family get caught? ›

Following a 15-year investigation by combined local and federal task forces, including the IRS, that resulted in a report of more than 900 pages of wiretaps, informants, seized financial records, and surveillance, Big Meech and Southwest T were arrested on drugs and racketeering charges in 2005.

Who was the most violent Mafia family? ›

Based on several in-depth interviews with mobster Nick Caramandi, this book describes in detail the workings of La Costra Nostra, or the Mafia, and in particular the activities of the Philadelphia-based Scarfo family.

What happened to the black hand Mafia? ›

Black Hand extortion was a criminal tactic used by gangsters based in major cities in the United States. In Chicago, Black Hand extortion began around 1900 and had all but faded away by 1970, replaced by the Mafia.

What crimes did the Mafia commit? ›

As a way to escape the poor lifestyle, some Italian immigrants chose to join the American Mafia. The Mafia took advantage of prohibition and began selling illegal alcohol. The profits from bootlegging far exceeded the traditional crimes of protection, extortion, gambling, and prostitution.

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