Street Legends

Aaron Jones

It was said that Aaron Jones was obsessed with the popular film The Godfather and crafted his persona in the mold of Marion Brando’s character Don Vito Corleone. In Philadelphia he was both admired and feared but the respect he commanded was paramount. The alleged founder and street boss of the Junior Black Mafia (JBM), he locked the city of Philly down. His organization was one of the most feared in the history of black organized crime in Philadelphia. Taking its cue from its violent predecessor, the Black Mafia. It’s said the JBM controlled a significant portion of the local cocaine trade and its members didn’t hesitate to use violence to eliminate the competition and keep its members in line. Their motto was “Get down or lay down” and Aaron Jones epitomized that ideal as his crew set the city of brotherly love on fire with some un-brotherly violence. If you crossed the JBM back in the day than you crossed one of the most notorious crews to ever come out of Philly. As their legend has grown, Aaron Jones, their leader has taken on a mythical aura as one of the top black American gangsters ever. His name and JBM’s rings loudly, living on in the hoods of Philly and in the streets across the nation. As they say real recognizes real and Aaron Jones was as real as they get.

Part 4- Media Hype

According to the Philadelphia Crime Commission, Aaron Jones and his associates built the JBM into a violent multi-million dollar drug organization that controlled all of Philadelphia between 1985 and 1991. It was alleged that the JBM was comprised of 50 members and had up to 300 associates that were responsible for the sale of up to 300 kilos of cocaine generating almost 30 million dollars a month. The JBM assets included plenty of money, mansions, luxury cars, furs, jewelry and weapons. Between 1985 and 1991, the organization infiltrated or obtained a financial interest in more than 33 businesses to launder money and provide legitimate fronts for their operations. They were linked to businesses such as video stores, delicatessens, detail shops, security firms, car washes, barbershops and restaurants. Law enforcement viewed members of the JBM as young, well connected, street smart hustlers with a no-nonsense approach to their business. And the media, well they fell in love with the notion of the JBM and ran headline after headline on them, seemingly connecting them to every crime in the city.

“I was not looked at as a man but as public enemy number one, a monster because of all the saturation of propaganda,” Aaron Jones said. It got so bad that every murder case that was unresolved during this period of time was put on the JBM to further substantiate the JBM profile of drugs and violence. Stories were told and embellished upon to the point that the truths of events were no longer identifiable. The papers reported that JBM leaders who were in their early 20’s wore diamond encrusted JBM initial rings, drove flashy late model foreign cars and ordered rivals, feuding members or associates skimming profits- Get down or lay down, cooperate or be killed. “That’s some media shit, it was never really like that. That was some paparazzi shit, it sounds good as a slogan, but that really wasn’t true. You meet somebody, you have some coke and 99 percent of the coke out there was on consignment. If you give them a good price they will accept it.” Derrick Williams explained.

“The motto Get down or lay down is the police motto coming from suckas on the street. No one went around telling people that or giving this ultimatum,” Aaron said. But the newspapers and law enforcement officials ran with it. They maintained that the JBM threatened drug dealers in Philadelphia to “Get down or lay down.” Weapons were JBM’s tools of the trade, the police contended. “Members of the JBM would and did carry semi-automatic handguns and other firearms in order to protect themselves and their drug businesses and to threaten and inflict violence upon rival drug dealers,” court records indicate. The motto was used to headline many stories done on Aaron Jones and the JBM by the media and it was used by the prosecution to further substantiate their claim of unchecked violence.

The JBM was so adept at intimidating witnesses that survivors of assassination attempts refused to testify against their assailants who usually carried high-powered, semi-automatic weapons. Authorities said JBM operative also tried to buy even more powerful weapons including hand grenades. Fancy cars, furs, jewelry, new homes and legitimate businesses made for a comfortable life, providing of course, the drug money continued to flow. And the flow of JBM financed cocaine turned into a flood. Law enforcement officials contended that the cocaine network established by the JBM began with the Colombians and included members of the Scarfo Mob family. They sold cocaine out of fortified house with armor-plated doors and windows. Drug deals were conducted through mail slots. Besides drugs they were also linked to extortions and gambling, Fred Martins, executive director of the Pennsylvania Crime Commission said. Martins also confirmed that JBM members were connected to “certain key people”- relatives of Scarfo’s crime family. And in the city they put their press game down.

“From what I understood dudes were submitting to their commands. Whatever they said went. If they felt dude was a problem he’d end up dead.” Ock says. The cars, the jewelry, the fly girls- JBM had it all. And the extreme violence that occurred was necessary to control their business. This was a given from the street point of view, but everybody knows how the media can flip the script and portray all the ills of society on the latest bad boy in town. America loves its heroes and it loves its anti-heroes even more. “The authorities used to name every drug murder in the city a JBM murder. One thing about the streets, every body knows everybody. They knew the so-called JBM murders were some hype.” James Cole said. But hype can make a man or break him. And the monster the media made Aaron out to be was far from the truth.

“He was like medium size build, he wasn’t all that big. If you was to see him you wouldn’t even think it was him.” Ock says. “He was an average looking dude but his name carried a whole bunch of weight.” In the city it was all JBM and Aaron Jones. Every time something went down it was Aaron and them that did it as far as the streets were concerned. There was only one gang in town and that gang was the JBM. They were all over the city and their names were ringing. The media focused in on Aaron Jones as the leader but Ock saw it differently, “Ultimately you would think Aaron was the leader but it might have been Rick Jones too because he was around since the jump and he was behind the scenes. Aaron was riding around, his name popping up, he was too much in the limelight. He was the face of JBM. The enforcer. The street boss.” Ock says. And his whole click feared him.

“Around 89, it was real heavy. They had different corners, crack houses, people in the bars. In Philly everybody is on the corners outside. They’d set up abandoned houses as crack spots, have people on the block, watching for police, collecting money, giving out bundles,” says Ock describing the scene. And JBM was flossing too, with that platinum bling-bling. “Belmont Plateau in West Philly on Sundays was the popular spot. Everybody got their girls, their cars, music. Everybody drinking Forties- Old English, Saint Ides and Philly blunts or EZ Wider. They thought Top papers had the pork in it.” Ock relates. Anybody and everybody living in Philly was talking about Aaron Jones and the JBM during the mid-eighties and early nineties. If they weren’t talking about them, they weren’t down. Everyone had their own version of things and most made it up as they went along but everyone agreed “that they were not to be fucked with.” The JBM had Philly on lock.

The newspaper headlines were crazy- Inside the JBM’s Rise to Power, Brash Youngsters Rule Over Drug Trade, 25 Murders Linked to the JBM. The JBM’s cocaine empire rivaled the defunct Black Mafia’s in scope and violence. What took the Black Mafia decades to build though the JBM conquered in a matter of years. “There were anywhere from 25-40 JBM guys,” Ock says. “That’s how deep they were. That’s just the people who were in position. They had countless people under them. Dudes were associated with the JBM but they weren’t official members. They were just putting in work.” And as the media reports continued no one was ready for what hit next. It seemed straight out of a movie. The Shower Posse/Junior Black Mafia war.

The Shower Posse was a notorious east coast organization of trigger happy Jamaicans who were known for shooting first with wild blasts from Uzi’s and asking questions later. They had dominated the drug trade from Kingston to Miami to New York and eventually started branching out to other parts of the country as they brought more of their people in from Jamaica. They were rumored to have a Wild West attitude with no regard for human life. If someone was in their way they let out a shower of bullets, hence the name. They were also on point with their murder game and had a cadre of vicious Jamaican nationals who were stone cold killers.

The Shower Posse had a stronghold in Southwest Philadelphia and the JBM wasn’t having it. One of their goals was to take back the territory controlled by the Jamaican drug dealers. “Initially when I heard, I was apprehensive,” Willie Byrd, special agent for the Philadelphia Crime Commission said. “I thought some of it might just be street talk. But then we started to get the same thing from other informants and from other agencies and I knew there had been some conflicts between blacks and Jamaicans. I was aware of competition between the two groups. Some of the reports made sense.”

The Shower Posse may have met its match with the brutal and pragmatic JBM. The headlines in Philly said the JBM was balling out of control, definitely putting their thing down. But like all champions a challenger was put forth, to fight JBM for the street crown of Philly. It was like Ali vs. Frazier, Hopkins vs. De La Hoya. What was big news before, turned into real big news with the entrance of the Shower Posse, who were encroaching on the home team’s territory with a murder spree of their own. But was the war more hype than reality?

In March 1988, a man appeared on a television documentary, his face obscured, and claimed to be one of the city’s top four drug dealers. The man threatened to kill his rival Jamaican drug dealers. “We’re going to start exterminating them. I’m telling them we’re corning. Not maybe, might or we’re thinking about it, we’re coming. Just think when, where or how, who’s going to be first.” The man flashed his JBM ring and identified himself as the leader of the Junior Black Mafia. “The name Junior Black Mafia came about when a fellow, unknown to anyone, went on national television and stated his group was formed to rid the City of Philadelphia of a group of Jamaican drug dealers known as the Shower Posse. He claimed his group was more heavily armed than the Shower Posse. He declared war on the Shower Posse. He stated he was a group called the Junior Black Mafia,” James Cole said. “I called Aaron and asked him did one of his boys go on television claiming that he was the Junior Black Mafia. I asked him was it him. He asked me if I believed in the Easter Bunny, I laughed and understood.” Still the television appearance sparked a war, real or not.

“I’m familiar when the Shower Posse was in that era too.” Ock says. “Shower Posse was the Jamaican dudes. They were moving too. They didn’t believe in nobody owing them five dollars. They’d ride around in the Volvo’s with those baby Uzi’s- spray your whole family.” And that’s how the war went, death for death on the streets of Philly. Here’s what Tony Black who led the Philly branch of the Shower Posse said of the JBM situation, “The JBM were some clowns. Some of the guys that hustled with me had a beef with them after they left me and went on their own. I think one of the guys killed one of their leaders.” But in reality was the whole war concocted by the government to get the two groups to kill each other while police watched on the sidelines?

“Aaron said he saw the interview and didn’t know whom it was because the viewer had his face scrubbed out.” James Cole said. “He told me he didn’t understand how the dude got a JBM ring. Aaron knew the Philadelphia police took Lenny ‘Bazil’ Patterson’s ring when he was stopped in his car with Simon in Mount Airy. We never knew who it was until recently we put it together.” James Cole explained. “Through court documents we later found out that the ring Bazil had when he was stopped by the Philadelphia police, was turned over to the DEA. How someone got that same exact ring to go on television is unknown. But with the help of somebody in the government they started a war.” The guy on the tape turned out to be a drug dealer named Michael “Blood” Youngblood who was a known DEA informant with ties to the original Black Mafia, that later became an aide to a Philadelphia city councilwoman.

“Years later my co-defendant Joseph Cobb sent me an article his sister got off the Internet. In the article was a story about the city of Philadelphia’s councilwoman’s aide.” Cole said. “From the article we learned that a guy went on national television and claimed he wanted to kill the Shower Posse. The article stated he was a longtime federal informant who did anything and everything that the federal authorities asked of him. Youngblood could not have staged that event without the help of someone in law enforcement. He would have been locked from the door.”

In March 1990, the Pennsylvania Crime Commission issued a report that an organization called the Junior Black Mafia had been formed to take control of Philadelphia’s drug traffic. It also gave details on the alleged Shower Posse/JBM war for the streets of Philly. But in truth, much of what was reported was the invention of one man, Youngblood and his DEA handlers who were trying to throw some shit into the game by causing frictions between the crews. Divide and conquer were the feds tactics. “I read or heard that the Shower Posse had said something that the JBM was a crew of clowns or something of that nature but listen to this, the Jamaican Shower Posse had several members flip. Now, who is the crew of clowns?” Derrick Williams said. It’s rumored in the streets that even the leader of the Shower Posse flipped, but that’s another story.

With the feds orchestrating events, the so-called war had some casualties, but it didn’t take off like the feds wanted. It was all just some media hype in reality. But still there were some consequences. “I was in FCI Otisville in New York when a member of the Shower Posse who caught a case in Southwest Philly approached me.” James Cole said. “He wanted to know why Aaron went on national television and declared war on them. I told him how could a member of the mafia go on a television station and claim he wants to kill other human beings. I told him Aaron couldn’t do that. It was somebody with authority. He said that event caused a couple of his buddies to be shot. I told him I believed him because I read the 1990 Crime Commission report on the JBM and The Shower Posse drug war. The Crime Commission tried to say it was for control over drug turf in Southwest Philly. But he told me it wasn’t like that. He said they didn’t know who was who and some innocent people got shot because they were under the impression that everybody black in the drug trade was JBM members.”

This is an excerpt from Street Legends. If you want to read the rest order the book right now.