Indictment: Slain rapper Jimmy Wopo helped lead gang accused of murder, robbery
A Hill District gang allegedly led by slain rapper Jimmy Wopo killed at least three rival gang members and injured or shot at more than a half dozen others in a violent criminal enterprise that police said terrorized the city for years.
Three alleged members of the 11 Hunnit gang were indicted last week on federal racketeering charges, including homicide, drug trafficking and robbery, according to a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday.
Wopo, whose real name was Travon Smart, was not charged in the indictment, though he is referred to extensively throughout. The alleged gang members indicted were Dionte Griffin, 22, Sydney Pack, 20, and Richard Kelley, 23.
Pack, Griffin and Kelly were already in jail Tuesday, authorities said.
“Our citizens have the right to live in communities free from violence,” Pittsburgh Major Crimes Cmdr. Vic Joseph said in a statement. “The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police will not stand for violent gangs holding our neighborhoods hostage.”
Wopo’s attorney, Owen Seman, told the Tribune-Review that Pack, Griffin and Kelly have been in jail for more than a year, so any allegation tying his client to them would be from some time ago.
“It is no secret that Jimmy has ties to those guys, but any conduct alleged would not have been recent,” Seman wrote in an email to the Trib. “I feel like people are getting the impression that this was all allegedly going on recently. He really was trying to get out.”
Seman has said that he was trying to get permission from the court for Wopo to go on tour. The 21-year-old had been set to sign a deal to go on a 27-stop summer concert tour and join a record label started by Pittsburgh-native hip-hop Wiz Khalifa called Taylor Gang. Seman thought that leaving Pittsburgh would have been good for Wopo.
The 11 Hunnit gang’s activities – and its rivalry with another gang, the Wavy Boyz – alleged in the indictment stretch back to 2012 when heroin was stolen in the Hill District. The indictment also described gang warfare dating to when the Wavy Boyz allegedly killed 11 Hunnit gang member “E.Y.,” identified by the name “Lumber,” according to the indictment.
Eric Young, 17, who went by the nickname Lumber, was shot and killed on his way to school in October 2014, capturing community and police attention for days.
The indictment, returned Aug. 2, detailed a laundry list of crimes committed by members of the gang. The name is a combination of two blocks in the Hill District, according to the indictment: the 800 block of Memory Lane and the 300 block of Burrows Street. The addition of the block numbers works out to 1100: eleven hundred, or 11 Hunnit.
Though the gang did not have a formal hierarchy, several members, including Wopo, were considered higher up on the chain of command, according to the indictment. Wopo was identified throughout the 15-page indictment by his initials, “T.S.”
Wopo was shot and killed June 18 as he and another individual sat in a car on Wylie Avenue in the Hill District.
“T.S. held the greater influence within the group largely due to his notoriety as a regionally popular rap artist,” the indictment stated. “Members attempted to curry favor with T.S. by carrying out criminal acts at his direction. In return, T.S. often rewarded those that committed criminal acts at his behest by including them in his music videos and providing them with items of monetary value.”
The indictment alleged that Wopo often gave orders for 11 Hunnit members to inflict violence on rival gang members and other 11 Hunnit members “who fell short of his expectations.”
Members of 11 Hunnit were expected to run drugs and kill members of the Wavy Boyz, the indictment alleged. The indictment claimed three members of the Wavy Boyz were killed in 2015 and 2016 as a result of the gang rivalry.
Initials in the indictment and dates of deaths matched homicide records kept by the Tribune-Review. According to those records, 20-year-old Christopher Richardson was shot and killed on Dinwiddie Street in the Hill District on April 5, 2015; 18-year-old Martell Benton-Bridgett was shot and killed in Green Tree on Jan. 15, 2016; and 18-year-old Jabree Hines was shot and killed in Stowe on Oct. 21, 2016.
The investigation into 11 Hunnit stemmed from the killings of Benton-Bridgett and Hines. Allegheny County homicide detectives investigating the homicides noted the cases “involved some of the same individuals,” county police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said in a statement. From there, detectives partnered with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to bring down the gang.
The gang allegedly made their money through drug trafficking and robberies, and they used the money to fund their lifestyle and arm themselves, federal authorities said in a statement.
“As alleged, these defendants are members of a violent gang whose drug trafficking and acts of violence have terrorized law abiding residents of the City of Pittsburgh for too long,” U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said in a statement. “Today it ends.”
Wopo allegedly did not hide his involvement in the gang.
A YouTube music video published Feb. 13, 2017, allegedly shows Wopo, Pack, Griffin and other 11 Hunnit members, and investigators believed the lyrics make reference to at least one of the shootings, according to the indictment.
“This video was created to alert 11 Hunnit members to the consequences of disloyalty to the gang, to intimidate rivals and to enhance the reputation of the gang as a violent enterprise,” the indictment alleged.
Other YouTube music videos published by Wopo contained similar appearances and violent references, including one published in March 2017 that alludes to violence against “those included to cooperate with law enforcement,” according to the indictment.
The indictment also detailed numerous times in which 11 Hunnit members allegedly ran from police and were caught with firearms and drugs, including fentanyl.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.