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“Bloodline” Trail Leads To White Boy Chris

by Thomas MacMillan | Dec 4, 2013 9:29 am

(15) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Legal Writes

Paul Bass Photo In the opening days of a long awaited trial in Connecticut’s biggest federal drug-ring takedown, an alleged mastermind is on the stand—but not on trial.

He goes by the name “White Boy Chris.”

Meanwhile, a friend of one of the lower-level dealers actually on trial watched the proceedings Tuesday and called the whole case a “witchhunt”—in which a down-and-out dime-bag slinger faces 20 years in jail while “the guy with pounds of weed and three houses” prepares to cut a better deal.

The trial is unfolding this week in Judge Ellen Bree Burns’ second-floor courtroom in New Haven’s U.S. District Court, where Michael Thompson and Tylon “Bucky” Vaughn are fighting drug conspiracy charges.

Theirs is the first trial to come out of “Operation Bloodline,” the federal criminal sweep that resulted in 105 arrests in May, 2012.

Federal officials claimed that in Operation Bloodline they took down a sprawling group that dominated New Haven’s crack trade. The 18-month investigation by New Haven cops and federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents included 22 tapped phones. The resultant busts centered on the Tre Bloods gang, based in the Dwight-Kensington neighborhood and allegedly responsible for deadly violence in that area.

But based on testimony in the first two days of the trial, the guy responsible for bringing in kilos of cocaine from New York City, FedEx-ing pounds of marijuana from California, and shipping oxycodone pills hidden in stuffed animals from Florida didn’t live in Dwight-Kensington. His home, which has since been seized by the feds, was on a quiet street in tony Upper Westville, a block from the mayor’s house.

That man, Chris “White Boy Chris” Morley, has pleaded guilty to his own conspiracy charges and is now the government’s star witness in the case against Thompson and Vaughn.

On the stand on Tuesday, Morley told the jury how he established and developed a massive drug-dealing operation with his partner, a man known as “Big Baby,” who has also pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges.

Morley, the feds’ big fish, is trying to get off the hook somewhat by helping prosecutors reel in Thompson and Vaughn, his former Wilbur Cross high school classmates. Thompson and Vaughn, lower down in the organization than Morley, face up to 20 years in prison each, while Morley could see a lighter sentence because he’s cooperating with investigators.

Lawyers for Thompson and Vaughn, meanwhile, are seeking to show that their clients were either uninvolved in the drug ring, or just small-time dealers, not mastermind conspirators who deserve to be in federal court.

Morley, for now, walks free while Vaughn and Thompson have been behind bars since their arrests in May 2012. Morley was able to put up the cash to bond for his release while he awaits sentencing.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has been criticized for its handling of Operation Bloodline prosecutions, the slow pace of which defendants argue has deprived them of their rights.

“Unscrupulous Activity”

Morley, who’s 35, took the stand Tuesday afternoon wearing khaki pants and a blue zip-neck sweater. Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Silverman, he explained how he entered a life of crime at the age of 12, and how, in his late 20s he set up a drug operation with $10,000 seed money from his stepfather.

Morley built his operation into a “one-stop shop” for drugs and stolen merchandise, according to Erik Ndrenika, the DEA agent in charge of Operation Bloodline. Morley had as many as 46 different bank accounts, through which he filtered about $2.5 million in drug money, Ndrenika told a grand jury during the investigation.

Prosecutors Tuesday played some of the thousands of phone calls they recorded as part of Operation Bloodline, featuring some drug trade slang and some bickering between drug dealers who began to suspect a snitch was in their midst. The calls also reveal how a bulk customer can return drugs when he doesn’t like the quality: It’s not a matter of saving the receipt, but of having the right “clothes.”

Morley grew up in Newhallville. He started selling stolen merchandise with his stepdad at flea markets when he was still in middle school. He later moved into selling drugs, then insurance fraud and bail-bond fraud, he said.

In 2005, he went to prison on multiple counts of larceny and forgery. When he got out, in Dec. 2006, he returned to selling drugs. When his stepdad gave him 10 grand, Morley went to New York City with Big Baby—whom he’d known for seven or eight years—and bought a half-kilo of cocaine.

Morley and Big Baby brought the coke back to New Haven, and Big Baby cooked it into crack. Morley told the jury how to make crack from cocaine on a stove-top, using baking soda and boiling water. You can also make it in a microwave, he said, but stove-top crack is preferable because the process reveals impurities.

Starting in December 2006 and until their arrests in May 2012, Morley and Big Baby ran an ever-expanding drug-dealing operation. Morley would put up the money to buy and store the drugs; Big Baby would get the cocaine from New York. They’d cook some of it into crack, known as “hard,” and sell some of it as powder, known as “soft.”

Morley estimated he moved about 40 kilos of cocaine during those years, about 10 kilos of which was converted into crack.

Eventually Morley and Big Baby branched out into weed and oxycodone pills, known as “blues.” Morley sent a friend to California and established a connection for marijuana. He’d have pounds of it sent by FedEx from San Francisco to his unwitting grandmother’s home on Alston Avenue in Westville

Morley got the oxycodone—in 30 milligram pills—from a guy in Florida with whom Morley set up joint bank accounts. Morley would deposit money in Connecticut and his connection would withdraw it in Florida and buy oxycodone. He’d hide the pills in stuffed animals and send them to Morley’s grandmother’s house in Westville.

Morley said he and his Florida connection had a total of 13 or 14 bank accounts together. Banks kept shutting them down for “unscrupulous activity.”

Meanwhile, Morley had a day job at a North Haven car dealership. With drug money, he’d buy cars on auction then re-sell the cars, effectively laundering the dirty cash.

He rented a house on Quinnipiac Avenue, which he used as a “stash spot,” a place to process and store drugs. Morley also bought a house on Curtis Avenue in Upper Westville, paid for with drug money.

Morley said he and Big Baby eventually moved away from selling cocaine, when the quality of their supply went downhill.

Silverman, the prosecutor, played a tape of a call between Morley and Big Baby, recorded in Sept. 2011, in which the two complain about the poor quality of a recent bulk cocaine purchase from New York. They had ended up with less weight after cooking it down, a sign that the drugs had been mixed with filler to add weight.

In the call, Big Baby told Morley that the New York dealer wouldn’t take back the drugs because they weren’t in the original “clothes,” the distinctive kilo-wrappers that prove where the drugs came from. Dealers have a way of marking the clothes with a symbol, or using a distinctive style of wrapping, as a way of preventing people from passing off other drugs as their own.

Morley told Big Baby that the New York connection was giving them a line of “bullshit,” that you have to take off the clothes to weigh the cocaine properly on the “clock,” the scale.

The feds would later find some of those “clothes” when they raided the Quinnipiac Avenue house on Feb. 11, 2012, along with a cash-counting machine, for stacking and bundling bills for drug runs to New York City.

In those same Feb. 11 raids, police intercepted 16 pounds of California weed that had been delivered to Morley’s grandmother’s house.

That same day, Cops found Morley at his home on Curtis Avenue, along with $50,000 in cash hidden around the house.

Prosecutor Silverman asked Morley what happened to the house.

“You guys took it,” Morley replied.

The Godfather

In court on Tuesday, Silverman asked Morley about Vaughn and Thompson, and played recordings of their telephone conversations. (Click here for a story detailing pre-trial questions raised about the wiretapping in this investigation.)

Here’s how Morley claimed Vaughn was involved in drug dealing:

Morley met Vaughn during their freshman year at Wilbur Cross. They’d been friends ever since. “I’m the godfather of his oldest child,” Morley said.

Vaughn sold small quantities of crack for Morley, usually about an “eight-ball”—3.5 grams—per day. He also sold cocaine and marijuana.

Vaughn and Big Baby used to fight over drug debts. Sometimes Vaughn would end up getting beat up by Big Baby, who stands well six-feet tall and weighs about 300 pounds, according to Ndrenika, the DEA agent.

Vaughn tried to work around Big Baby and deal directly with Morley. In phone call on Aug. 20 2011, Vaughn asked Morley to “put me in a position off this block.” Vaughn wanted to move up in the organization, to stop “selling $20 bags” on the corner.

Morley demurred, and told Vaughn he needed to stop gambling away his earnings, stop “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” and start saving. Vaughn chuckled and said “you know me like a book.”

Here’s how Morley claimed Thompson was involved in drug dealing:

Morley and Thompson also met as freshman at Wilbur Cross. In 2010, they reconnected when Morley gave Thompson an ounce of cocaine to sell “to help him get on his feet.”

Morley continued to front and sell drugs to Thompson, from a couple hundred grams of coke up to half a kilo or a full kilo.

Thompson wasn’t reliable about paying Morley back for drugs he got on credit. Morley calculated Thompson owed him a total of about $64,000 for drugs he’d fronted to him. At about $40 a gram, that’s over 1.5 kilos worth of cocaine, not including whatever cocaine Thompson actually paid Morley for.

Prosecutor Silverman played phone calls between Morley and Thompson, which Morley deciphered for the jury. In one, in October 2011, Morley complained of a terrible toothache while Thompson complained that 500 grams of cocaine had cooked down to only about 450 grams of crack, indicating that the cocaine wasn’t very pure. In another call from the same month, Thompson asked for more oxycodone, saying he had people calling him looking for more pills.

“Where the blues at?” Thompson asked on the phone call, as the feds listened in.

Obama And Vaughn

During a lunch break in testimony Tuesday, John Barry, who said he’s a childhood friend of Vaughn’s, called the entire Operation Bloodline a “witch hunt.”

He said cops used the operation to “lock up all the small-time hustlers,” like Vaughn. Barry called Vaughn a “nickel and dime guy” who “sleeps place to place” with no fixed address, and can be heard on the DEA tapes arguing over as little as $5. (Another defendant, Jameel “Biggs” WIlkes, made the same argument in this Independent interview.)

“That’s a witch hunt,” Barry said, “when the guy with pounds of weed and three houses—he gets a deal?”

Vaughn, meanwhile, was dealing only dime bags, and now faces 20 years, Barry said. It comes down to racism, the same reason President Obama can’t get Congress to pass any laws, Barry said. Black people are just 13 percent of the general population, but make up a far larger percentage of the prison population, he pointed out.

It’s that way, “for the system to work,” Barry said. “It’s the United States.”

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posted by: elmcityresident on December 4, 2013  10:53am

exactly Barry…Vaughn and Thompson will get a large number from the FEDS while the BOSS “whiteboy Chris gets less time thats the system modern day slavery

posted by: Scot on December 4, 2013  11:06am

Great reporting.  What is the state of the investigation with Morley’s suppliers (the coke supplier in NY, the marijuana guy in CA, and the oxy guy in FL)? I assume the Feds are investigating up the food chain as well, right?  The article doesn’t touch on that.  Does that mean the Feds aren’t pursuing that?  investigation still in process?  If they were following Big Baby and he was going into NY to buy coke, seems like it wouldn’t be that hard to catch the people he was buying in bulk from.

posted by: La Rubia on December 4, 2013  11:51am

As a resident home owner living within a block of Kensington St. what bugs me is this.  For 18 months while the Feds and NH cops observed all this deadly and scary activity - taking all the sweet time they wanted - my life and neighborhood remained at risk.  My property value is compromised, my ability to enjoy my life, liberty and pursuit of happiness diminished and at risk,and dangerous crazy criminals literally operating in plain sight.  My sister is afraid to come and visit me.  My ability to rent the apartment in my two family house adversely affected directly - Yale even tells all their incoming grad students and post docs not to rent in Dwight because all this violence is going on in plain sight.  What recourse do I have to re-coop my losses in property value, peace of mind.  Can I sue the feds?  Can I sue the perpetrators?  Maybe if the Feds acted sooner the killing on Elm that prompted the big bust would not have happened.  Maybe all the abuse and neglect of the infants and little kids nearby would have ended sooner.  Maybe my house that I have owned for 34 years would be worth something.  I have paid the City of New Haven over $200,000 in property taxes for the privilege of living in a war zone while the authorities look on from their safe secured locations.  What about my rights?  Any lawyers out there?

posted by: elmcityresident on December 4, 2013  11:55am

EXACTLY sCOT IF THEY REALLY WANT TO STOP THE WAR ON DRUG YOU GOTTA GO UP THE CHAIN GET THE BIG GUYSWHO SUPPLY THE LITTLE GUYS,i always wondered why the bigger suppliers rarely get arrested

posted by: Career High School Parent on December 4, 2013  12:31pm

Way before the crack epidemic hit New Haven, my mother would say"white justice is far difference from black justice.” If you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime.”

I told my own son that over & over again. And he has never been a ne’er do-well. But then again, I also told him that I would kill him if police ever came to my door to arrest him for drug dealing, old lady robbing, et al.

One can’t sell poison, commit egregious acts on their neighborhood/society and then yell racism after they are on trial. Again, there is white justice, then there is our justice. It will never change.

posted by: robn on December 4, 2013  1:51pm

Racism bunk. First guy that squeals gets the deal. Can’t blame the system that Morley cracked first.

posted by: elmcityresident on December 4, 2013  3:29pm

@La Rubia and Career High School Parent i agree with you also @robyn, we’ll see about that after they all get sentenced.Morley had alot more going on them those street peddlers its just reality i’m just happy Morley got arrested too.

posted by: Career High School Parent on December 4, 2013  5:14pm

@Robn,

It’s not racism. It’s just the way this land has been set up. Why is it that a dealer with powder cocaine gets lighter sentences than the dealer with rock cocaine? They are both cocaine, but one has been cooked & baking soda has been added.

If you look at our justice system, blacks have always received harsher sentences. For all crimes. Not just drug offenses.

There was one case where a white man raped a 6 yo girl. He was given 7 years I believe…he got out and killed a 17 yo jogger a few years back after being released from his rape case.

Kwame Kilpatrick gets 28 years for stealing/lying. He didn’t defile any young girls, didn’t perform any lewd acts on a minor and he was given 28 years.

YES! He was wrong & should do lots of time and should have to repay all the $ that he stole from his constituents! But he gets 30 years for stealing and a white man gets 7 years (and was released early) for sodomizing an innocent baby?

Again, our justice system.

posted by: robn on December 4, 2013  5:31pm

CHSP,

The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 signed by President Obama significantly reduced the sentencing disparity between rock and powder cocaine. While you and I believe the sentencing ratio should be 1:1, that’s really not the issue in this particular case. Morley made a deal with the authorities and implicated his buddies to reduce his own sentence. It’s highly likely that the same kind of offer will be made to Thomson and Vaughn if they implicate others, including their NYC sources. If they don’t sing, tough luck for them.

posted by: alex on December 5, 2013  5:06am

Who wins when a person is locked in a cage for 20 years?

As @La Rubia points out, it won’t bring back property values.

I can think of a few winners:

* Private prison facilities, like the ones who have already benefited from the U.S. Attorneys’ handling of the case: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/wiley_dons_prison_plaint/

* Drug dealers who come in on the territory that was once occupied by the people thrown in jail, because all of the structural and economic incentives for drug dealing are still in place

* Prosecutors who will get promotions and status for putting away the bad guys at trial

If the defendants are guilty, they deserve to be punished. Breaking the law should have consequences. But conviction after a federal trial will necessarily impose mandatory minimum federal prison sentences that will do justice for no one. The jury, by the way, will NOT be informed about mandatory minimums that a conviction will entail; and the judge will have no discretion to modify them downward.

Is this the only justice we can ask for?

posted by: Bradley on December 5, 2013  8:13am

Unless I missed it, the article doesn’t say what sentence Morley is facing. The phrase “Morley could face a lighter sentence because he is cooperating with investigators” can be read two ways. .I suspect that many readers would find it reasonable if he got a 20-year reduction off of a 100-year sentence, I.e., a lighter sentence than originally faced.  On the other hand, there is an obvious equity issue if he ends up serving less time than Thompson and Vaughan.

posted by: Career High School Parent on December 5, 2013  8:46am

@robn

Again, these miscreants get no sympathy from me whatsoever. When one has a hand in turning young mothers into crack whores & neighborhoods into war zones, you get what you get.

Let me add that if Morley had a darker melanin, his brown ass would be facing a much longer sentence.

posted by: Career High School Parent on December 5, 2013  10:44am

@alex,

Who wins? It sure isn’t the baby born a crack addict, and we know it isn’t the poor innocent bystander who is shot in the crossfire. These are things that one needs to consider before taking on this type of “profession”.  Many don’t care, they feel that the rewards of the drug trade outweigh any consequences that they may face.

posted by: alex on December 5, 2013  1:31pm

CHSP,

Trust me, I’m not trying to say that they don’t deserve to be punished. But I don’t understand what NEW HAVEN gets by locking people away for decades in federal prisons. Why should we hurt ourselves to hurt people who do bad things? Why not attempt to punish in a way that rebuilds society instead of further tearing it apart?

posted by: alex on December 5, 2013  2:39pm

If they don’t care about the consequences they may face, why exactly do we lock them up for so long? What does it achieve for our society?

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