Gang leader tied to multiple metro Atlanta shootings convicted of RICO conspiracy

A jury found a gang leader guilty of RICO conspiracy charges in a federal trial.

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A jury found a gang leader guilty of RICO conspiracy charges in a federal trial.

The leader of a ruthless street gang was convicted of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and several other crimes Friday in a Georgia federal courtroom, officials said.

Jurors found Maurice Antonio “Savage Duze” Kent guilty of RICO conspiracy, violent crime in aid of racketeering, discharging a firearm during the commission of those violent crimes, and possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Ryan Buchanan announced in a news release.

Kent, a 32-year-old Cartersville man, ran a northwest Georgia “set” of the 135 Pirus that operated out of Cartersville and Rome. The Pirus are a subset of the notorious Bloods street gang that originated in Compton, California. The gang has members and sets across the nation.

“Kent and his fellow gang members demonstrated an absolute disregard for human life and have now been brought to justice as a result of the strong partnership between federal and local law enforcement,” Buchanan said. “This case, which culminated in a jury verdict convicting Kent of all charges, reflects our office’s resolve to tirelessly investigate and prosecute gangs who drive violence in our communities.”

In Friday’s release, Buchanan described the trail of terror Kent and his organization blazed, which led to the conspiracy convictions.

According to court testimony, a high-ranking California-based member of the Pirus felt disrespected after getting into an argument with a rival gang member outside a Brookhaven nightclub early the morning of May 13, 2017. Kent retaliated by firing several gunshots into a crowd, critically wounding the opposing gang member as well as a security guard at the nightclub.

During a police chase following the shooting, Kent tossed his gun from a vehicle just before he was captured.

While in custody, he learned that a 17-year-old member of the Pirus who witnessed the shooting was questioned by investigators, prosecutors said. Kent determined the teenager was “snitching” and orchestrated his murder, according to court testimony.

Other members of the Pirus gang devised a plan to lure the teen to Bartow County, where they shot and killed him with one of Kent’s guns and left his body on a rural road.

Prosecutors also presented evidence from a September 2016 drive-by shooting in Cartersville. Attorneys said Kent shot a man standing in a front yard, then threw the firearm into Lake Allatoona. The FBI later recovered the weapon from the bottom of the lake and it matched cartridge casings and a bullet from the drive-by, tying Kent to the shooting, according to the release.

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The RICO case has already yielded convictions against five of Kent’s fellow 135 Pirus, who’ve been found guilty of an array of charges ranging from murder to racketeering, according to the release.

Kent and his co-defendants will be sentenced at a later date, attorneys said.