A Milwaukee street gang allegedly stole millions of dollars in Covid-19 pandemic relief money that was then used to commit murder and purchase weapons, drugs, among other items, according to an indictment. federal charge.
The 43-count indictment charges 30 members of the ‘Wild 100’, also known as the ‘Shark Gang’, with a litany of crimes including mail fraud, murder for hire, conspiracy for the purpose of selling firearms, illegal possession of firearms, including a machine gun. possession of firearms and drugs with intent to sell.
The indictment was returned by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin and unsealed in May.
The gang’s alleged leader, Ronnell Bowman, and another defendant, Ronnie Jackson, have been charged with the April 2021 murder of an individual named only NB in a murder-for-hire scheme.
Bowman and Jackson have pleaded not guilty. Bowman, who was arrested in the Houston area in May, is being held pending trial. Both men face life in prison if convicted.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Kwaterski told a federal judge in May that Bowman was the ringleader of the fraudulent scheme and was personally responsible for the theft of $850,000 in Covid relief money, according to a transcript of the detention hearing of the accused.
The fraud methods Bowman allegedly taught other gang members resulted in the theft of millions of dollars in Covid relief money, Kwaterski told the judge during the hearing.
The indictment alleges that the “Wild 100” filed fraudulent claims for pandemic unemployment assistance in California and several other states.
The defendants used preloaded debit cards issued by state unemployment programs to withdraw cash from ATMs in Wisconsin, according to the indictment. The stolen Covid money was allegedly spent on staging the murder and buying weapons, drugs, jewelry, clothes and vacations, among other items.
Bowman allegedly used the stolen money to solicit murder and purchase several guns, including machine guns, and then gave those guns to others knowing they would be used to commit violence, including murder, said Bowman. Kwaterski told the judge during the detention hearing.
Bowman allegedly offered to pay for the murder of a rival gang member’s mother or sister on Instagram, according to evidence presented by Kwaterski at that hearing. Instead, the rival gang member’s friend was found killed. Jackson allegedly received $10,000 for committing the murder, according to Kwaterski.
Bowman is suspected of two other murders for hire related to a war with a rival gang, Kwaterski told the judge during the detention hearing.
The dismantling of the ‘Wild 100’ by law enforcement was part of a nationwide sweep this summer by Justice Department strike teams targeting $836 million in stolen Covid relief money. The operation resulted in indictments against 371 defendants in various fraud cases.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland created a task force in May 2021 to prosecute fraudsters who stole Covid relief money. Criminal charges have been filed against more than 3,000 people and more than $1.4 billion in stolen money has been recovered so far, according to the DOJ.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco said last week that the DOJ was setting up new strike teams in Colorado and New Jersey to continue the hunt for stolen relief funds.
“We will seek court orders requiring convicted defendants to repay every stolen dollar and we have 20 years to achieve those recoveries,” Monaco said.