The Infamous…Aaron Jones and JBM
Aaron “AJ” Jones was born one of 13 children in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1962. As a youngster, he ran errands and shined shoes for members of the notorious Black Mafia crime syndicate, based in Philadelphia, of which his older brother, Eddie, was a member. Jones attended Temple University after graduating from West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Boys in 1979.
He began his drug trafficking career selling $10 bags of crack on the corner of 52nd Street and Walton Avenue, near his brother Ike’s Dry Cleaning business.
In 1985, with the majority of the members of the Black Mafia incarcerated, Jones and seven others founded the Young Black Mafia. Besides Jones, the group included: James and Hayward Cole; Rick Jones; Benjamin G. “Bennie” Goff; Tracy Mason; Leonard “Bazil” Patterson; and Mark “Goldie” Casey. At the outset, the expressed goal was for the collective to capitalize on the recent emergence of crack-cocaine in Philadelphia and engage in drug trafficking until each had raised enough money to open and develop legitimate businesses. Each member was required to make an initial investment of $1000 and to contribute the same amount weekly to a fund set aside for the establishment of legal businesses. Incoming members were also required to have clean criminal records. The group originally operated in the Germantown section of Northwest Philadelphia, taking advantage of the disarray of the Scarfo Crime Family due to the group’s violent infighting and power struggles. The group, headed by James Cole, began by incorporating other drug gangs operating in Germantown into their organization and gradually expanded outward. Aaron Jones’ responsibilities as second-in-command included collecting money and distributing crack and cocaine to street dealers. Supplied by James Cole’s cocaine connection in California, Earl “Mustafa” Stewart, YBM practiced what essentially amounted to hostile takeovers when competing gangs refused to be absorbed into their ever-widening distribution network. The group routinely offered rivals the ultimatum: “Get down or lay down.” The choice given to competitors amounted to joining the network or being murdered.
In March of 1985, rival John Craig Haynes, who’d established his own drug business in West Oak Lane, South Philadelphia and Olney in North Philadelphia, engaged members of the upstart organization in a shootout outside of Philadelphia City Hall after refusing to allow his network to be absorbed by theirs.
Eventually, the group substituted the “Young” in its name for “Junior” and the members became renowned for their custom-made gold rings with letters J-B-M spelled out in 29 diamonds. Group members made a habit of showing off the trappings of their newly acquired wealth at a local haunt frequented by young people on Sundays — Beaumont Plateau, located in Fairmont Park in West Philadelphia. Aaron Jones was known for his flashy cars that included a Saab with a custom Gucci interior and a Volvo 780, designed by Italian automotive company Bertone, which had only become available in the U.S. in 1986.
Despite the City Hall shooting, the organization reportedly remained under the radar of law enforcement for two years until city police became suspicious of a prevalence of luxury cars, including Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs and Volvos, many with custom JBM monograms, and an inordinate amount of activity at the A- Tech auto-detailing shop in Germantown. The activity at the shop, owned by Goff, triggered an investigation by the now-defunct Pennsylvania Crime Commision, an independent watchdog agency mandated to investigate and expose organized crime within the state of Pennsylvania.
On July 12, 1988, JBM’s chief enforcer, Anthony “Tone” Reid, shot Mark Lisby twice in his chest and once in the right leg in front of his home for $150. He was later pronounced dead at Temple University Hospital. Lisby had obtained a bag of cocaine worth that amount from his nephew, JBM dealer Terence Lisby, and had failed to pay him. In November of that same year, John Craig Haynes was shot in another (non-fatal) altercation with JBM members.
A drug raid by the Philadelphia Police Department Narcotics Unit on December 1, 1988, resulted in the arrests of JBM members Jules Pickard, James Gaines, David Shabazz, William McNeil and co-founder Tracy Mason.
The Pennsylvania Crime Commission report for 1989 alleged that JBM was in cooperation with members of the Philadelphia Mafia, including now-boss Joseph Salvatore “Skinny Joey” Merlino, in the cocaine business. That same year JBM gained complete control of the Southwest Philadelphia drug trade when the Nelson brothers’ organization, with whom JBM shared control of drug activity in the area, was dissolved. Rick “Big Roachie” Nelson was sent to federal prison in Oklahoma following drug trafficking convictions and Wayne “Little Roachie” Nelson was murdered. By this time, JBM also dominated North Central Philadelphia, Mount Airy, parts of South and West Philadelphia and of course, Germantown. Police estimates placed the organization’s workforce at over 300 employees.
On January 6, 1989, high-ranking JBM member Marvin “Big D” Robinson turned himself in to the district attorney’s office following a succession of raids on his stash houses by Philadelphia Police, during which four cars, two motorcycles, $350,000 cash, five semi-automatic weapons, furs, jewelry, 178 vials of crack and 3.5 pounds of powdered cocaine were seized.
By the summer of 1989, Rick Jones had amassed a mini-business empire. He owned 20 pieces of real estate and businesses, including Wyncote Auto Cleaners in West Oak Lane and the Queen Lane Deli in Germantown.
Benjamin Goff owned Rims Plus, an auto-detailing shop in North Philadelphia; Philadelphia Auto Works Ltd., an auto accessories shop in Oak Lane; and the Automobile Bank, a used luxury car dealership in Manayunk.
While the shootings resulted in JBM members wearing bullet-proof vests as a matter of policy, they also spurred the formation of a joint agency task-force, comprised of DEA, ATF ,FBI, IRS, Pennsylvania State police and local police resources, dedicated to dismantling the organization. By 1989, authorities had seized over $1 million worth of cash and property from JBM members.
JBM attracted even more heightened scrutiny from law enforcement when violent crime related to the drug trade increased even further. There were 25 murders attributed to JBM between April 1988 and August 1989.
On February 2, 1989, Haynes organization members Guy and Gil Matthews were charged with murder, conspiracy and aggravated assault in connection with the shooting death of James Susswell in North Philadelphia. Susswell, who the brothers believed to be a JBM member, and two friends were sitting in a car when the twins opened fire. Lonnie Gallman, Vernon Hawkins and John Craig Haynes himself, all charged in connection with other JBM shootings, were also charged in the Susswell case. Haynes would eventually be sentenced to life in prison for the shooting.
Concerned that JBM associates Darryl “Hickey Mo” woods and Neil “Phil” Wilkinson could be informants, Aaron Jones ordered JBM enforcers Anthony “Tone” Reid and Kevin “Black” Bowman to kill them. On March 13, Wilkinson was shot to death. Woods was left a paraplegic after being shot five times.
Also in March, JBM enforcer Anthony Reid shot 16-year-old Michael Waters to death with a 10mm handgun after the teen hit Reid’s car with a snowball. Years later Reid would receive a death sentence following a first-degree murder conviction for the shooting.
JBM member Reginald Rittenburg was murdered March 26 in West Philadelphia after being accused of skimming profits off the top.
On June 29, Byron Lawrence, a member of the Haynes organization acting on orders from John Craig Haynes, shot boxer Anthony “Two Guns” Fletcher, who prosecutors maintain Haynes believed to be a JBM associate, and Eric Hurst, who was with Fletcher at the time. Hurst, who died from his injuries, was also believed by Haynes to be a member of JBM.
That same month, police recovered 56 grams of cocaine; a .45-caliber handgun; $140,000 cash; jewelry estimated to be worth $38,000; and two fur coats when Aaron Jones’ mother’s home was raided.
On July 11, Christopher “Dirty Black” Laster, Stacy Rucker and three other JBM members were allegedly sent by Aaron Jones to eliminate a rival drug crew that controlled the corner of Moore and 24th Street in South Philadelphia. The five shooters opened fire on the six men present but instead injured a woman, Sylvia Stinson, shielding three children and killed Willie Bowman — who had no connection to either gang.
On July 17, Aaron Jones was arrested on gun charges at Philadelphia Osteopathic Hospital when a nurse treating him for an ulcer discovered a loaded .380 semi-automatic handgun under his pillow.
On August 10, Donald Branch was shot dead inside a restaurant in West Oak Lane during an attempt on Jones’ life by Curtis Perry and Maximillian El — members of the John Craig Haynes drug organization. Besides Branch, two other bystanders were shot as well. Jones was unharmed in the incident. A little over a month later, Anthony Anderson, suspected of being involved in the plot to kill Jones, was found shot to death on a back porch in Germantown.
JBM leader James Cole was arrested Wednesday, August 23, on federal weapons charges in lower Buckes County in Northeast Philadelphia. On August 30, Aaron Jones was re-charged with the attempted murder of convicted drug dealer Richard Isaac but he and co-defendant Samuel “Magic” Brown, JBM’s third-in-command, were acquitted following Isaac’s retraction of his earlier testimony that Jones and Brown were two of his three attackers. The two had originally been charged in February but charges were dropped after Isaac refused to cooperate. According to police, Isaac was a rival narcotics dealer who’d established his own drug network in North-Central Philadelphia. During a June 20 preliminary hearing in the case, Brown’s cousin, JBM member Ronald “Rock” Mason (a suspect in three murders at the time), was arrested on weapons possession charges for brandishing a loaded nine-millimeter semi-automatic handgun in his waistband while seated near Isaac’s mother, Anita, in court in what police described as an attempt to intimidate Isaac. Isaac had been left paralyzed from the waist down after being shot 10 times on February 21, 1989. The Pennsylvania Crime Commission cited Isaac’s refusal to do business with JBM as the motive for his shooting. Mason was convicted of violating Pennsylvania’s uniform firearms act October 13 and on drug possession charges October 17.
Isaac and Haynes weren’t the only rivals to oppose encroachments by JBM. On February 2, nineteen days prior to Isaac’s shooting, Terrence Goss was shot by JBM members as well. Established narcotics traffickers George Blakely and Leroy Keys formed a coalition with long-time North Philadelphia loanshark, numbers operator and drug trafficker Richard Spraggins and conspired with New York-area narcotics distributors in an effort to combat JBM’s growth.
On September 6, JBM member Tracy Harris was sentenced to seven years with no parole in federal prison and fellow JBM member James Gaines was sentenced to eight years with no parole following March 31 convictions for conspiracy and intent to distribute cocaine. The two were convicted along with JBM members Julius Picard, William McNeil, David Shabazz and co-founder Tracy Mason. All six had been arrested during a December 1 drug raid the previous year, at which they were found “cutting and bagging” cocaine in a Mt. Airy apartment rented by Gaines. A loaded .357 Magnum; $79,081 in cash in a trash bag; two vehicles and various drug paraphernalia, including a triple beam scale and plastic bags were recovered at the scene.
On September 25, JBM enforcer Anthony “Tone” Reid was convicted of weapons possession charges stemming from a February 4 arrest, during which Reid was found in possession of a .380 caliber semi-automatic handgun.
Also in September, 1989, JBM co-founder Mark Casey died from a drug overdose while in detention in Philadelphia’s Holmesburg Prison awaiting trial for the January 2, 1989 shooting death of Timothy “King Aaqil” Keitt. Both Casey and his cellmate, fellow JBM co-founder Leonard “Bazil” Patterson (who eventually recovered after being treated at Nazareth Hospital) suffered an overdose after ingesting the popular street drug “pancakes and syrup” — a mixture of glutethimide pills and cough syrup containing codeine. Patterson was awaiting trial for the April 16, 1988 murder of James Wesley Tate.
James Cole was convicted for his federal weapons charges in October. On November 3, while in detention at the Philadelphia Industrial Correction Center awaiting trial, Aaron Jones repeatedly stabbed another inmate, Parrish Barnes. Both Jones and Brown were acquitted of the attempted murder charges but Jones was charged with aggravated assault for the stabbing and transferred to Holmesburg Prison.
According to police, while Jones was in detention awaiting trial for the aggravated assault charges, one of his lieutenants, Leroy “Bucky” Davis, took over daily operations for JBM in West Philadelphia, Overbrook, Wynnefield and South Philadelphia. Davis, a former amateur boxer was renowned for his gold necklace with a pendant that read “Bucky”, spelled out in diamonds. Meanwhile, Bryan “Moochie” Thornton assumed overall leadership during Jones’ incarceration.
On April 20, JBM enforcer Anthony “Tone” Reid and head of JBM operations in North Philadelphia, Kevin Bowman, were convicted of first-degree murder for the March 13, 1989 shooting of Neil Wilkinson in a stairwell in the Richard Allen Homes housing project with the same 10mm handgun used to kill Michael Waters six days earlier. Darryl J. Woods, Jr., who survived, was shot five times in the same incident and left paralyzed. The next day, Leonard “Bazil” Patterson was convicted of first-degree murder for the April 16, 1988 shooting of a rival, reputed drug dealer not affiliated with JBM, John Wesley Tate, stemming from a turf dispute. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on April 24. Bowman and Reid each received life sentences. Reid would also be convicted of murder and receive a death sentence for the 1988 shooting death of Mark Lisby and the 1989 shooting death of Michael Waters.
On May 14, 22-year-old Davis was shot to death at approximately 2:30 a.m. on the front porch of a rowhouse in West Philadelphia. According to witness testimony from JBM enforcer Christopher Anderson, Davis was murdered by another JBM lieutenant, Bryan “Moochie” Thornton. By the time Aaron Jones, Samuel Brown, Bernard Fields, Calvin and Mark Brown and Anderson decided to retaliate at a meeting on August 17, Thornton had been incarcerated for unrelated charges. On June 10, 1990, Thornton and his driver, JBM enforcer Eric “Little Hawk” Watkins, were involved in a traffic incident in North Philadelphia, in which another motorist, Gregory Jackson, blew the horn at the two while stuck in traffic. Watkins responded by getting out of his vehicle and slapping the hood of Jackson’s car before proceeding to pistol-whip him. Thornton then told Watkins to shoot him, which he did — in front of his wife, Cynthia. Watkins would eventually (in 1992) be convicted of murder and sentenced to 17 to 35 in prison for the shooting. On July 21, 1992, Thornton was sentenced to 16 to 32 years in prison after being convicted of murder in the third-degree.
JBM soldier James Anderson (no relation to Christopher Anderson) was recruited after the August 17 meeting at Tucker’s Bar in Southwest Philadelphia. Because Thornton was incarcerated, Jones directed Christopher Anderson and James Anderson to murder Thornton’s cousin, JBM member Bruce Kennedy. Kennedy himself had been acquitted of charges in 1987 in another murder case. It has been widely rumored that Jones’ secondary motivation for ordering Kennedy’s death is that they were dating Neisha Witherspoon, the mother of one of Jones’ children, at the same time. The next day, James obtained a nine-millimeter MAC-11 and Brown provided Christopher with a nine-millimeter semi-automatic pistol and gave both James and Christopher black leather gloves. After verifying that Kennedy was on the premises, the two opened fire in his store, Mommie’s Food Market, located at 54th and Harlin Streets in West Philadelphia, at approximately 4:20 in the afternoon, killing Kennedy, who shot back once but suffered ten gunshot wounds, and wounding the store’s co-owner, Carol Zachary. Following the shooting, Christopher and James left their guns and the black, hooded sweat suits they’d worn near train tracks near the Philadelphia Zoo. After abandoning the car they’d driven to Mommie’s, they were picked up by JBM lieutenant Rodney “Frog” Carson, who would later provide testimony at trial for the prosecution in the case, and taken to Jones, who in turn had Brown to take them to the Airport Tower Hilton in order to lay low. Two days later, Christopher retrieved the guns used in the shooting and sold them.
On December 8, Aaron Jones and Rodney Carson beat and burned fellow inmate Hugh Moore with cigarettes while housed at Holmesburg Prison. The two were interrogating Moore about the murder of Leroy Davis seven months earlier.
The next February, Carson, having been sentenced to 37 to 75 years in state court and still facing federal drug charges, agreed to become a cooperating witness for the government.
Aaron Jones was sentenced to 10 to 20 years and fined $25,000 for the prison stabbing on Valentine’s Day, 1991.
Jones, along with Bernard Fields, Bryan Thornton and 23 others were indicted by a grand jury on October 2, 1991 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The defendants were all charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine between 1985 and September 1991. Jones, Fields and Thornton were tried together during a fifteen-day jury trial at which federal prosecutors presented evidence that included more than sixty wiretapped conversations and testimony from ten cooperating witnesses. Jones was incarcerated at Rockview State Prison in Centre County serving his sentence for the 1989 prison stabbing at the time of the trial.
On December 13, John Craig Haynes, Patrick Coleman and Curtis Perry of the rival Haynes Organization were all convicted of first-degree murder for the 1989 shooting death of Donald Branch. Haynes was also convicted of murder in connection to the June 1989 death of Eric Hurst.
Jones and Thornton were convicted of operating a continuing criminal enterprise and conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine on April 23, 1992. In addition, each was ordered to forfeit $6,230,000 to the government. Fields was convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon and using a firearm during a drug trafficking offense. He was ordered to forfeit $7,000. All three were handed life sentences mandated under the federal drug kingpin statute by U.S. District Judge Marvin Katz. Jones was sentenced on September 15, 1992.
Six more JBM members were convicted on July 10, 1992. Joseph “Gump” Cobb, Darrell Reaves, Michael Williams, Anthony Long, Reginald Reeves and Leroy “Skip” Jackson were all convicted on drug conspiracy charges.
Nine members of the organization, including founder Leonard “Basil” Patterson, pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute cocaine and heroin on November 5th and 6th. Patterson was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison. Sam “Magic” Brown, Anthony “Tone” Reid, Ronald “Rock” Mason, William “Storm” Perdue, Derrick Williams, Shawn Davis, Barry Richardson and Christopher “Dirty Black” Laster also pleaded guilty.
While serving his life sentence for drug trafficking, Aaron Jones was tried in connection to the August 18, 1990 death of reputed drug trafficker Brian Kennedy. Following a nine-day jury trial, Jones, Samuel Brown and James Anderson were convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. On January 22, 1993, Jones was sentenced to death. Three days later, Brown and Anderson received life sentences. Christopher Anderson, who testified against the three, received a sentence of 32 to 65 years after pleading guilty to third-degree murder for his involvement in the shooting. While Anderson was spared a life sentence, he complained that the government failed to honor their agreement to provide him with protection in prison.
Aaron Jones is housed on deathrow at SCI Greene (State Correctional Institute Greene) Supermax prison, which is located in Franklin Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, 330 miles west of Philadelphia.
On March 12, 1993, JBM member Rodney “Frog” Carson, who testified at three separate trials against members of the organization as a cooperating witness for the prosecution, was sentenced to 3 years in prison after pleading guilty to drug conspiracy charges. Carson, who testified to earning $500,000 during his time with JBM, entered the Federal Witness Protection Program after his release.
On December 20, 1995, Christopher Laster was convicted of murder in the third degree and conspiracy for the 1989 shooting death of Willie Bowman.