Rap Star Bankrolled Gangs That Killed on His Orders, Prosecutors Say

The rapper Sheff G paid cash for the group of nine that he treated to dinner at a high-end Manhattan steakhouse in October 2020.

Prosecutors say that festive dinner was a reward for carrying out a shooting against a rival gang two days before that left one man dead and five others injured.

Sheff G, whose real name is Michael Williams, was “celebrating the score,” the Brooklyn district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, said at a news conference Tuesday. One of Mr. Williams’s musical collaborators, Tegan Chambers, known as Sleepy Hallow, was also there, Mr. Gonzalez said.

Mr. Williams and Mr. Chambers, drill rappers who have garnered over 100 million views and streams on YouTube and Spotify, were among 32 people charged in a 140-count indictment announced during the news conference.

Mr. Williams, 24, who went from Flatbush, Brooklyn, to a Short Hills, N.J., mansion, has been doing time for gun possession, but while his musical career was taking off — earning him fame, cash and record contracts — prosecutors said he was also bankrolling two gangs, the 8 Trey Crips and 9 Ways, which operated in several Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Flatbush, East Flatbush and Canarsie.

“This alliance waged war against their mutual enemies,” Mr. Gonzalez said.. He said that the profits from music propelled the violence: “Sheff G used a lot of money that he earned to help facilitate further gang activity.”

Mr. Williams’s lawyer, Mitchell Elman, declined to comment Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities launched the investigation after the shooting in October 2020, and it grew to encompass 12 shootings with 13 victims, one of whom died, officials said. Nineteen firearms were seized.

By Tuesday afternoon, 24 of the defendants were in custody and were being arraigned in Brooklyn Supreme Court, facing charges including second-degree murder, possession of a weapon and assault. If convicted, Mr. Williams will face up to 25 years in prison, Mr. Gonzalez said.

In a similar gang takedown in November, the district attorney’s office indicted 32 people who they said were associated with rival gangs locked in a cycle of violence that resulted in the death of two members and injured 14 people.

At the news conference, Mayor Eric Adams said that the indictment in Brooklyn was a testament to the way that law enforcement is focusing on the small group of “extremely violent” individuals who perpetuate gun violence in New York.

The charges against Mr. Williams and Mr. Chambers were not their first brush with the criminal justice system.

Mr. Williams is serving a prison sentence for criminal possession of a weapon and had been eligible for release in June. He was one of five drill rappers who were removed from the local edition of the hip-hop festival Rolling Loud in 2019 at the request of Police Department officials, who cited safety concerns.

Mr. Chambers, 23, was released from prison in February after serving nearly eight months for weapons possession.

The newest charges unsealed against the group, which includes Mr. Williams’s sister, Crystal Williams, spanned several years and two dozen violent incidents, Mr. Gonzalez said.

One episode began in April 2021 when a rival gang shot at Mr. Williams’s mansion in Short Hills, where he and his closest allies lived, prosecutors said. The next day, members of Mr. Williams’s gang shot at a member of the 8 Trey who they believed had betrayed Mr. Williams by giving his address in New Jersey to rivals, authorities said.

They opened fire on a Flatbush sidewalk, striking two bystanders — a 53-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman — instead.

About two months later, in June 2021, prosecutors said 10 people kidnapped the same gang member and took him to a cemetery, where they beat him, stopping only when someone reported them to the police, according to prosecutors.

Much of what the gangs did was possible because of Mr. Williams’s money, officials said. For acts of violence, Mr. Williams would give rewards of cash, features in his music videos and the promise of music contracts, prosecutors said.

“With such a large following, individuals are looking to impress them,” said Jason Savino, the head of the Police Department’s Gun Violence Suppression Division, adding, “They were idolized by so many and feared by so many more.”

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