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Date: 04-04-2024

Case Style:

United States of America v. Otis Lee Bowers

Case Number: 2:22-cr-00345

Judge: Anna M. Manasco

Court: The United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama

Plaintiff's Attorney: The United States Attorney’s Office for Birmingham

Defendant's Attorney: Leroy Mawaell

Description:

Birmingham, Alabama criminal defense lawyer Leroy Mawaell represented the Defendant charged with Wide-Ranging, Prison-Based Conspiracy

Member of the Gangster Disciples Sentenced to 235 Months in Prison for Role in Wide-Ranging, Prison-Based Conspiracy



The last defendant involved in a prison-based phone scam that targeted retailers throughout the country has been sentenced.

Otis Bowers aka “Big O,” 44, of Bessemer, was sentenced to 235 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Bowers smuggled controlled substances and other contraband into Donaldson Correctional Facility, which helped further the prison-based phone scam at the center of the investigation.

U.S. District Court Judge Karon O. Bowdre previously sentenced seven other defendants involved in the scheme, including the following:

On August 15, 2023, one of the organizers and leaders of the conspiracy, Ricardo Poole, Sr., aka “Raoul,” 48, of Bessemer, was sentenced to 234 months in prison. He pleaded guilty in April 2023 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, and aggravated identity theft.

On November 20, 2023, a manager and supervisor of the conspiracy, Kortney Jovan Simon, 43, of Birmingham, was sentenced to 144 months in prison. Simon pleaded guilty in January 2023 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and aggravated identity theft.

On October 3, 2023, a “skit” caller involved with the conspiracy, Terry Ray Bradshaw, aka “Skitzo,” 39, of Remlap, was sentenced to 61 months in prison. Bradshaw pleaded guilty in February 2023 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and aggravated identity theft.

On June 27, 2023, Ricardo Poole, Jr., 25, of Birmingham was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Poole, Jr. pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Between September 2020 and May 2022, Poole Sr. led a group of inmates housed at Donaldson Correctional Facility (Donaldson), who used telephone scams called “skits” to trick employees at The Home Depot, Inc. (Home Depot) into activating pre-paid gift cards. “Skit runners” used contraband cell phones, social engineering techniques, and spoofing technology to trick retailers into transferring funds to inmates under fraudulent pretenses. The defendants would use the fraudulently activated gift cards to make purchases.



Bradshaw was a “skit runner” who was housed at Donaldson for most of the period charged in the indictment. In private Facebook messages Bradshaw referred to himself as a “hacker” and a “professional phone scam artist.” On November 21, 2020, for example, Bradshaw told a Facebook contact that he was “the best scam artist this side of [the] Mississippi.”

During the relevant period, Bradshaw worked for members of the Gangster Disciples—a violent national criminal gang, founded in Chicago, and active across the U.S., including Alabama. At all relevant times, Poole Sr., Simon, and Bowers were members of the Gangster Disciples. Poole, Jr. assisted Poole, Sr. in the carrying out the scheme.

Bradshaw targeted Home Depot and other retailers with “skit” calls. He would then provide the gift card information he obtained to other members of the conspiracy who would purchase products or take steps to liquidate the cards. In exchange for his work as a “skit runner,” Bradshaw received protection from the Gangster Disciples, luxury items like Cartier glasses, and controlled substances like methamphetamine. As Poole Sr. explained in a series of messages he sent to a co-conspirator: “I got to pay the dude that be ordering shit,” “[h]e on ice so I got to keep him hi[gh],” and “I got to pay this dude to keep this shit coming.”

In connection with this aspect of the scheme, Poole, Sr. conspired with Bowers and others to smuggle controlled substances into Donaldson, including methamphetamine and heroin. One of the ways in which members of the conspiracy smuggled contraband into Donaldson and other ADOC facilities was by paying bribes to correctional staff. At other times, members of the conspiracy smuggled contraband into Donaldson and other ADOC facilities by throwing it over the perimeter fence, i.e., the “fence play.” As Poole Sr. explained to a co-conspirator, “I can get it thrown over or I can have it placed somewhere out there and have it brought in.”

In March 2022, Bowers and Poole Sr. worked together to smuggle controlled substances and other contraband into Donaldson in a “fence play.” The scheme was interrupted by law enforcement who confronted a group of co-conspirators trespassing on state property at Donaldson. After being confronted by ADOC officers, the subjects dropped multiple bags containing contraband and fled into a wooded area near the facility. Among other things, the bags contained heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, Delta-Nine-Tetrahydrocannabinol, and over a kilogram methamphetamine. ADOC officers also recovered a Ruger, Model LC9, 9mm pistol; 15 rounds of 9mm ammunition; an extended gun magazine; five pocket knives, one canister of pepper spray; 15 packages of Suboxone, a prescription medication used to treat opioid use disorder; 7 packages of Buprenorphine, another prescription medication used to treat opioid use disorder; 18 small packages containing more than 3.2 kilograms of suspected marijuana; 27 packages of THC gummies; cell phones; cell phone chargers; cell phone cables; a mobile hotspot; memory cards; SIM cards; scales; lighters; individually wrapped cigarillos and cigar wrappers; and shoes, jewelry, and watches.

The U.S. Secret Service Cyber Fraud Task Force investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward J. Canter and John M. Hundscheid prosecuted the case. Home Depot’s Asset Protection Investigations – Organized Retail Crime Group, the Alabama Department of Corrections Law Enforcement Services Division, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation all provided significant assistance during the investigation.

Outcome:

Defendant was found guilty and sentenced to 235 months in prison

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:

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