'90s drug gang members facing new drug charges
By Joe Gorman
As members of the street gang that pioneered the sale of crack cocaine in the early 1990s in the city, Aaron Rogers and Brian Hunter weren’t just taking part in The Game – they were all-stars.
So investigators say it is no surprise the two got back into The Game, the term some give to the drug trade, after serving lengthy federal prison sentences for drug trafficking and getting caught again.
Rogers, 47, and Hunter, 44, both of Youngstown, are two of 19 people indicted on charges of selling heroin and cocaine in the city. They were both arrested last week after federal indictments were unsealed Wednesday.
Rogers and Hunter have detention hearings in federal court this week. They have been in custody since their arraignments after they were picked up Wednesday.
Former Youngstown police officer Bob Patton, who was in law enforcement for more than 30 years and spent a large portion of that time investigating major drug cases, said Rogers and Hunter were both members of the Ready Rock Boys. Patton was one of the lead investigators on the federal case in 1994 that saw them and eight others indicted on cocaine-trafficking charges in Youngstown.
Patton said the Ready Rock Boys had friends and relatives in Detroit who had access to crack cocaine, and they networked with them to bring the drugs to Youngstown.
“They were the guys that brought crack cocaine to Youngstown,” Patton said.
Patton said the gang members were known for all driving the same types of cars – and for the drugs and the accompanying violence that came with the drug trade. In the 1990s, the city saw a record spike in its homicide rate as more than 500 slayings were recorded, a large portion attributed to the crack-cocaine trade and the resulting turf wars that followed.
Patton said all members of the ring were found guilty or pleaded guilty, and they all served lengthy sentences. Court records show Rogers was sentenced to 121 months in prison, and Hunter was sentenced to 87 months. The case was investigated for about a year by the city police department along with the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Patton said.
“It put a huge dent in the crack-cocaine traffic in the city and the violence,” Patton said.
Patton said he was not surprised that Rogers and Hunter both purportedly got back into The Game.
“That’s all they really know,” Patton said.
Patton and city Police Chief Robin Lees, who also worked for a majority of his career in law enforcement investigating drug crimes, said it is hard for people involved in The Game to get out, no matter how many times they are arrested or even if they have a change of heart.
They both said drug dealers who go to prison often wind up serving time with other drug dealers. There, they are able to network and often get together when they are released to do business.
“You make contacts,” Patton said. “You talk, you communicate in prison.”
Lees said he is glad the current case is over because he had been receiving a lot of complaints since he became chief in 2014 about drug dealing in the South Avenue corridor, and the indictments should clear up that problem for a little bit. He said he was frustrated because when people would complain to him, he could not tell them the problem was being worked on because he did not want to compromise the investigation.
“These are long-term resolutions to what they see as a short-term problem,” Lees said.