Violent Neighborhood Gang Known as “The Hazelwood Mob” Dismantled

PITTSBURGH, PA- A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh has returned two separate, but related, Indictments following a four-month Title III wiretap investigation into drug trafficking and violence in and around the Hazelwood neighborhood in Pittsburgh. The Indictments charge 25 residents of Western Pennsylvania with narcotics trafficking and firearms violations, Acting United States Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman announced today.

Acting U.S. Attorney Kaufman said, “Years ago Hazelwood thrived along with the steel industry. But with its fortunes tied to the steel industry, it also underwent a decline. Now is it being revitalized, and incapacitating the Hazelwood Mob will lead to a safer community.”

“The Hazelwood Mob has terrorized this neighborhood and is responsible for the increase of violent crime to include murder, retaliatory shootings and illegal drug distribution,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall. “This investigation is another example of the commitment by the FBI and our Safe Streets program to work with our law enforcement partners to rid our neighborhoods of these violent street gangs.”

“I am grateful for the consistent cooperation, intelligence-gathering, and information-sharing between our local, state, and federal partners so that once again, we can witness the results of those collaborative efforts, which is to bring those responsible for crimes to justice,” said Wendell Hissrich, Public Safety Director, City of Pittsburgh.

The first Indictment, returned on August 31 unsealed today, names the following 24 individuals as defendants in a conspiracy to distribute drugs:

• Joshua Yarbough, 36, of Hazelwood

• Asia Andrews, 26, of McKees Rocks

• Justin Bailey, 34, of Braddock

• James Correll, 30, of Hazelwood

• Javon Grant, 20, of Hazelwood

• Gregory Griffin, 45, of Mount Oliver

• Neil Harris, 36, of Hazelwood

• Jasson Hart, 19, of Hazelwood

• Vernessa Hines, 37, of Hazelwood

• Taemon Johnson, 20, of Hazelwood

• Otis Mickens, 42, of Arlington

• Delrico Shields, 25, of Hazelwood

• Steve Smith, 30, of Hazelwood

• Cameron Snow, 23, of Hazelwood

• Aronde Stamps-Howard, 21, of Hazelwood

• Rich Stanford, 57, of Pittsburgh

• Ronald Stanford, 34, of McKeesport

• Lawrence Strothers, Sr., 38, of Hazelwood

• Michael Strothers, Jr., 25, of Hazelwood

• Michael Strothers, Sr., 48, of Hazelwood

• Moniem Strothers, 22, of Hazelwood

• William Thomas, 43, of Pittsburgh’s Hill District

• Dorian Wood, 40, of Clairton

• Jemeal Youngblood, 24, of Sheraden/Hazelwood

The named conspirators include leaders, members, drug suppliers, and associates of a violent neighborhood gang known as the “Hazelwood Mob” or the “Down Low Gang” based out of the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The Indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to possess with intent to distribute and distribute at least 400 grams of fentanyl, 280 grams of crack cocaine, and quantities of heroin and fluorofentanyl from August 2019 through August 2021. The Indictment further alleges individual drug trafficking charges against Joshua Yarbough, Asia Andrews, Taemon Johnson, Lawrence Strothers, Sr., and Jemeal Youngblood. The Indictment also includes the allegation that Joshua Yarbough discharged a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in connection with a shooting that occurred on June 13, 2021 and that he possessed ammunition after having been convicted of several crimes punishable by more than a year in prison. Federal law prohibits anyone who has been convicted of a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year from possessing a firearm or ammunition.

The second Indictment, returned on August 31 and unsealed today, charges Kodi Downing, 33, of Swissvale, Pennsylvania, with one count of possessing ammunition after being convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year in prison.

For all defendants charged in the first Indictment, the law provides for a minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and up to life, a fine of not more than $10,000,000, or both. As to Kodi Downing, the law provides for a maximum total sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendants.

Assistant United States Attorney Nicole Vasquez Schmitt prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Munhall Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office, the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, and Whitehall Police Department conducted the investigation leading to the Indictment in this case. This prosecution is a result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles high-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten communities throughout the United States. OCDETF uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

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