Washington, D.C. will forever be known as The Murder Capital of the United States because of the drug violence that jumped off during the crack era. The drug trade bred killers and Dodge City in the late-80s was a virtual war zone with bodies dropping on a daily basis. The shootouts, drive-bys and execution-style killings were reminiscent of the brutal tactics used by Chicago gangsters in the 1920s. Thirteen people were even killed by gunfire in a 24 hour period on February 14, 1989, a clear reminder of the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago 70 years before, when seven henchmen of gangster Bugs Moran were shot to death by Al Capone’s gun thugs. And like the Capone-era gun thugs, many of the crack era gangsta’s were stone cold killers and go hard soldiers involved in a life they called “The Game,” but in reality the consequences of losing were much more fatal.
Everyone has heard of the world class baller and cocaine kingpin turned snitch, Rayful Edmond, but less than zero has been heard about the crew that put him in position and held him down. Behind every street legend is a thorough team of go hard soldiers, some innovative thinkers and some stone cold killers. It takes all types in the drug trade. The chronicles of gangsta lore would have you believe that Rayful Edmond built an inner-city drug empire by himself, but that isn’t true. Every leader is only as good as the men behind him. Yes, Rayful Edmond was the face and front of the Rayful Edmond crew, but he had a team of good men behind him. Men that held him down and contributed greatly to the legend an organization Rayful spawned. Men that in the end, turned out to be better than Rayful, because unlike Ray they held true to the code of the streets and kept their mouths shut when the shit hit the fan. They always says, “If you’re willing to do the crime then be willing to do the time,” but in this War on Drugs era, that is the exception rather than the rule.
Since we are the world’s only authentic street magazine and outlaw bible you know we get the real straight from the belly of the beast. We celebrate the true gangsters that held true to the G-code. We’d like to offer our readers an exclusive, a once in a life time story from a man who’s been buried in the federal prison system for over 20 years. A man who went to trail with Rayful Edmond and who prosecutors called “the vice president of enforcement” for the crew. Meet Antonio “Yo” Jones, a real live gangster who was one of the main men in the Rayful Edmond crew, and who is doing a life sentence in the feds for crimes connected to his activities in that crew. Yo is the type of guy who understood the meaning of loyalty and death before dishonor. However, he understood that the lifestyle he chose to live was not the best option available. He has traveled through some of the most dangerous places in the United States penitentiary system during his 20 plus years of incarceration. He sat down with us to give the real, raw and uncensored, from the belly of the beast.
I was considered the number one hammer and all security matters fell on my shoulders. That is until my partner Jerry Millington got out of the penitentiary, then we both shouldered the responsibility. I had to bang my pistol a few times to help bring order to the organization. There’s always a lame or two out there that we would have to make an example out of periodically. We would strike by any means, knife, gun, baseball bat, whatever the situation presented. I have always been good at setting my mark and enforcing it. Everyone quickly took notice that we were serious about our money.
Describe the come up of the crew and when did things start jumping off?
Things started to jump off for the better when we moved our enterprise to the infamous Orleans and Morton Place. Ray and his cousin Johnny initially put together a spot on 5 & L Street N.E., around the corner from Orleans. While Jerry and I pushed our pack uptown on 9th and U Street, N.W. We had our hands in all kinds of shit during that time, but we still were a team. Both Jerry and I had open cases in court, but we only knew one way to run the streets…hard as shit! I ended up beating my assault with the intent to kill case, but they stepped Jerry back on a marked money case. I eventually closed up shop uptown, mainly because I didn’t have my partner watching my back any longer and the way I saw it was four eyes were better than two. I rejoined Ray and Johnny back at our stomping ground on 5th and L Street to discuss some new strategies. One of the things I pointed out to Ray was the wide-open style that was displayed. I told him that I was uncomfortable with the way they were in the open and exposed, so we agreed that I would handle all security matters related to the organization from that point forward. The first thing I did was move the organization to the alleyways of Orleans and Morton Place, N.E. We decided to use the alleys to prevent the kids from being exposed to the criminal activities that we were involved with. The neighborhood loved and respected us for that move.
Orleans and Morton Place were short, narrow, parallel one-way streets connected by a series of alleys. Florida Avenue, a major east-west thoroughfare was a short block to the north for easy access and fast getaways. Everyone has always credited Rayful with the creation of what was known as “The Strip,” but in reality it was Yo who came up with the idea. When the strip was running at full capacity, dozens of coke dealers sold little bags to customers who came on foot or slowly cruised through in cars with Virginia or Maryland plates. The lines would sometimes number 100 buyers long. If a police car ventured into this maze lookouts would yell, “Olleray, olleray, olleray,” Pig Latin for roller. The narrow alleys were barricaded, so if the cops gave chase on foot, it was an obstacle course of old tires, broken-down washing machines, trash cans and trip wires. Yo’s design covered every eventuality. Juveniles would lob foam footballs that had been hollowed out and stuffed with cocaine up and down the block as a kilo a day was moved in $50 bags. Demand on the strip was so intense during that period that sellers sold out their supplies within minutes. Selling 25 grand worth of coke very rapidly was the norm. And this was before crack hit the scene.
Was Ray’s crew jumping off before crack or it all happened around the same time?
Our crew had Orleans and Morton Place jumping off way before crack cocaine flooded the city. We had some of the best powder cocaine in the Chocolate City. However, once the crack epidemic hit the area we contacted our good friends in California who put us down proper. We then moved hard and soft candy from that point forward.
What was “The Strip” like on Orleans and Morton Place?
“The Strip” was open 24/7; we had men working around the clock shifts. Everyone benefited from our consistency and availability. Our crew was the only people allowed to work on “The Strip.” If you wasn’t authorized you would have gotten found somewhere. Orleans and Morton Place was an open air drug market, you could get anything desired. We became one with the neighborhood and made sure everyone stayed safe.
Is that where you all grew up? What was it like growing up there?
The majority of our crew were born and raised in that area. Growing up in the neighborhood was no different than any other, you know block parties, barbecues. A lot of the older gangsters would look out for us when we were young. They showed us how to conduct ourselves. Their number one rule was always keep your mouth shut! That worked for some, but not for others. One thing I can say about our hood was that it was very close-knit.
Overall we had a close knit group; every relationship has ups and downs though. It’s easier to have a close knit group with guys who share a similar mindset of don’t take no shit from anybody and get money by any means. We did pretty much everything together such as taking trips, clubbing, and just hanging in general.
The Rayful Edmond crew was a group of family members and friends, prosecutors claimed, that conspired to distribute large amounts of cocaine in the Northeast Washington neighborhood where many of them lived. Many of the family members supervised the retail side of the street operations, counting the money, packaging and delivering the cocaine destined for “The Strip.” Rayful’s grandmother’s house at 407 M Street, Northeast served as the network’s unofficial headquarters. The Rayful Edmond family and his whole crew would come together at the house for get togethers. It was a true family affair. A climate that Yo fostered because he was in charge of security. As the front man and leader of the successful and flamboyant crew Rayful became a hometown hero. He made sure neighbors had turkeys on Thanksgiving and gave out $100 bills to the kids so they could buy some Air Jordans. Rayful bought meals for the homeless, cars for his top staff, clothes for his friends and sponsored area basketball teams. He was known to be close to Alonzo Mourning, NBA player and Georgetown alumni. It’s said Rayful and his crew went to all the Hoyas’ games. With his street persona he drew workers and admirers by always traveling with an entourage and in cars like Porsches and Jaguars. “There goes Rayful and them. They getting it.” They said in the city. And the man who was in charge of protecting the king was Yo.
Describe the era when Rayful was king?
When Rayful was in power everybody was getting money. People loved him, mainly because of his willingness to extend his hand. Times were extremely good for us financially. We slung coke on both of our main spots (M Street NE and Orleans/Morton Place NE) like a well oiled machine. One spot sold mostly OZ’s and under and the other sold the major weight. Our crew brought in a couple hundred thousand a week easily. Ray was a money making machine and he made sure the whole town ate good.
Did Ray and you guys used to go to a lot of the Georgetown Hoya games? What was that like and what was your all’s relationship with players like Alonzo Mourning and John Thompson?
We certainly went to a lot of their games back in the day. Going to the games was pretty much like going most places in the city…a show. Going to Georgetown games was special because we had personal relationships with a lot of the players. Alonzo Mourning and John Turner were definitely two of the most notable players. Both were damn good youngsters. Zo dealt with Ray a little more, but JT was my main man. They would just hang and talk shit with us. We never involved them with any negative bullshit, out of respect, but some people had their theory anyway. They would both play on Ray’s streetball team during the summer. Some college players and some street ball legends. Zo came to court a few times during our trial. Slim was a good stand up youngster. he did good for himself.
When you all were holding court in the city what was it like? How did people respond to you all when you went out to the clubs and were seen about the city and stuff like that?
When we went out on the town, everyone showed mad love. People always wanted to get close to Ray when they were at the clubs. He was like a chick magnet; they came from all over trying to get a piece of slim. A few other youngsters that hung with him regularly had girls chasing them as well. Jerry and I often went places with the crew, but we stayed in the background scoping the scenery. If we went somewhere as a unit, most people either knew us or heard of us. I personally didn’t like to be in the spot light, so if you saw me that might not necessarily have been a good thing.
We wore all top flight shit. Ray would call one of his boys down in Georgetown, who would get us shit imported from their region. However, we started really stepping our gear up when Tony Lewis joined the organization. Tony was one of the best dressed dudes in the City. Ray and Tony would go on shopping sprees together buying all kinds of slick shit. The entire crew started rocking the likes of Hugo Boss, Valentino, Ralph Lauren, and the top of the line Versace shit…not that colorful lame shit. As far as cars, I personally was not a flashy type of guy, but I did own a few Benz, BMW’s Pathfinders, and a Mazda 929 when they first came out. A lot of dudes in our crew really didn’t have to buy cars, because Ray had so many that they would drive, from BMW’s, Mercedes’, Range Rover’s, Porches, etc. There were a number of clubs that our crew would hangout at. Most notably the Metro Club, Chapter III, and a few others spots that I can’t remember at this time. We would often go to Atlantic City, and Vegas to let our hair down as well.
The Rayful Edmond crew were ballers, as in world class ballers. The flourishing drug trade on “The Strip” afforded its young executives a style of life well beyond their working class origins. Their lives consisted of flashy cars like Mercedes-Benz and BMW’s, Rolex watches and enough bling to outshine Lil’ Wayne. When the Rayful Edmond crew rolled into the club you knew it. They started that entourage shit. They had the swag of Muhammad Ali and the style of Don Corleone. When they stepped out it was like a walking advertisement for drug dealers, young black millionaire, have money, get paid. Everyone in the hood wanted to be down with the Rayful Edmond show. The crew took all expense paid trips to Super Bowls, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard title fights in Atlantic City and Las Vegas and went on $25,000 shopping sprees at Trump Plaza, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and Gucci or Hugo Boss stores in New York City.
Describe the trips to Vegas and Atlantic City for the fights or the shopping sprees? What was it like being a part of Ray’s inner circle?
Our crew was tight back in those days, so like a said before we would frequently visit Vegas and Atlantic City to party or to conduct some shopping. It was nice being on top, we would go to all the big fights no matter where they took place. The trips were unreal; we would be conversing amongst celebrities like we knew each other for ages. Professional ball players would gravitate to us more than anyone though. Ray and Tony Lewis would get complementary cards for everything, because they knew these two young brothers were going to gamble heavy. I saw them win and lose hundreds of thousands without breaking a sweat. I mean these dudes would be sitting there smiling after losing a few hundred large.
What type of dude was Rayful?
Rayful was a hell of a good man, back then. He would give you the shirt off his back if he befriended you. He was one of those type of young guys who knew how to get money. Ray loved to play and joke around all the time, but if someone mentioned the word money, his eyes and ears would open wide. He acted like a CEO of a major organization. He helped all of us get a major bank roll…but that was the Ray of the past!
The good times wouldn’t last. The crew blew up too big too fast and started wholesaling coke, flooding the city with cocaine secured from a Colombian connect. Plugged in directly to the infamous Cali Cartel the cocaine pipeline was on full blast. It was raining snow in our nation’s capital. Rayful Edmond was the original snowman, Young Jeezy has nothing on him. The Rayful Edmond crew had it on one million. It was a gangster’s paradise while it lasted. But crack hit and the chaos started. It was all the crew could do to keep it going. With beefs, busts and betrayals occurring on multiple fronts the writing was on the wall. In 1988, the crews elaborate, cash-rich corporate style drug operation started to cave in as law enforcement moved in and the snitches lined up to give information.
When did it all start going wrong?
As you know all good things must come to an end, but shit really started to go bad when we lost roughly two million in cash out Cali. Ray sent a few dudes out Cali to re-up on coke when they got fucked around in some sort of drug sting conducted by the DEA. The shit happened in a parking lot of a restaurant called the “Proud Bird” or some shit like that. My partner and I immediately flew out there to find out what the fuck was going on with our buy money. We started to get heat about a number of random shit. As soon as we got back in DC, the DEA generated a task force designated to get us off the streets. These motherfuckers set up shop right around the corner from our main distribution area, shit was getting real serious.
What happened when crack hit?
When crack hit the town, all hell broke lose. People was doing whatever they could to have a chance to suck on that glass dick. It wasn’t a good look for our town, but it affected the entire country the same way. Although, we benefited greatly from this epidemic due to us being one of the largest suppliers on the east coast during that time.
Two of the biggest rats on the case were Royal Brooks, a childhood friend of Rayful’s who was busted out in L.A. with the two million that was lost, and Alta Ray Zanville, an older white lady Rayful hooked up with to get car and apartment leases in her name for him. She got busted selling cocaine Rayful had given her and started wearing a wire and gathering information on the crew. While having a conversation with Rayful’s mother, Bootsie, Zanville got her to outline Rayful’s rise in the drug trade, “He was out there on the corner doing hand to hand with Johnny, then he just got too big, too fast.” The incriminating words were the last bit of evidence the feds needed for the indictment. Secretly recorded by a snitch who was playacting as a close friend to Rayful’s mom. The feds will do anything to make a case.
What did you think of Ray bringing the broad Alta Ray Zanville around and what was up with Royal Banks?
I had very little contact with the broad Alta Ray Zanville. I focused on making sure our security and defense mechanisms were in order. That hot bitch came around Ray’s family mostly, I saw her a few times in passing, but I didn’t need any new friends, so I always kept my distance from outsiders. I knew a little bit about the fuck boy Royal Brooks. I know Ray took care of that piece of shit…money, cars, tuition for school etc. I actually came face to face with this hot motherfucker in 1991 when I was coming back to DC for court. Back in the day everyone came through FCI El-Reno, Oklahoma before getting shipped to their destination. I had no idea this clown was on the same plane with me until the inmates started to depart the plane. As people were walking by me, I noticed this guy wearing a blue DC jail jumpsuit run over to the U.S. Marshal saying that he couldn’t get off the plane right now because Antonio Jones is back there. I didn’t know what the fuck was going on until I saw the U.S. Marshal’s officer bring his punk ass passed me. I caught up with him again inside of the FCI. This time was on better terms, because one of the Marshal’s had already taken my cuffs and shackles off and wasn’t paying attention to me. I slipped into the hallway where Royal was walking with four officers and caught him with a nice two piece before the officers could restrain me. His bitch ass started hollering please keep him away from me. The feds gave me a few lumps for that shit, but it was well worth it.
A 43 count indictment filed on June 20, 1989 charged Edmond along with 29 others with a variety of narcotics related activities, weapons offenses, murder and other crimes of violence. In regards to the operation of a large scale cocaine conspiracy the government accused the Rayful Edmond crew of being responsible for 60 percent of the district’s cocaine market. The Edmond case provided one of the first detailed glimpses of how the Colombian cartels fed inner-city drug markets. The trials were a culmination of three parallel investigations into Edmond and his district associations and their suppliers in L.A. conducted over two years by more than 200 federal, state and local law enforcement officials. The investigation, which began independently, stretched over three continents, revealing an international drama of smuggling, money laundering and secret wiretaps that traced a drug pipeline that began in the valleys of the Andes and ended up on the narrow, tree-lined blocks of Northeast Washington, D.C. The media hype for the case was incredible, they made the Rayful Edmond crew out to be the biggest drug dealers in the world.
When you all got busted the news media was acting like you were the biggest drug crew in the world. What was that like?
Yeah, the media hype really helped with the conviction verdict. They made us look like some of the most notorious dudes on the planet. We knew that was a part of their plan though. I admit we were getting a nice piece of change back then, but not like they were reporting. The media’s job is to make an average story interesting or more appealing than it actually was. I know they had a field day with us, because there were so many different people providing their input.
From all reports it seems like the main trial was a circus. Describe it and what happened?
The first trial was a complete zoo; they had us in one of those court rooms they normally would use for terrorist…bullet proof glass and everything. Their reasoning for that was so that we couldn’t intimidate any jurors or witnesses I guess. They ultimately wanted to put up shields, so that no one could see us in the courtroom. They actually set up some monitors on the other side of the glass, but the U.S. Court of Appeals told them that they couldn’t do that.
Describe the subsequent trials.
One of the subsequent trials didn’t last long at all. They brought up a double homicide case I beat back in 88. Their goal was to tie me into the conspiracy as one of the main enforcers. They also brought up a body that Lil’ Nut was convicted of previously. There was a third trial, but I had no knowledge of what took place. I was in Leavenworth during my bid.
From the court documents it looks like they convicted Ray’s whole family, was that just the feds being vindictive because they wouldn’t snitch or what?
Yeah, they convicted a number of Ray’s family members. Most notable was his mother, aunt, brothers, sisters and cousin. His cousin (Johnny Mondord) went to Leavenworth with me, I was really proud of the way he stood tall in the penitentiary. He didn’t take no shit from anyone, I taught him well. The feds are very vindictive, they love those cheese eating motherfuckers. They hated the majority of our mob, because we wasn’t gonna tell them shit about anybody or anything.
With the Rayful Edmond crew convicted and sentenced it seemed the story was over. But it wasn’t. The crew had their 15 minutes of fame, but their infamous leader wasn’t through. Rayful kept on dealing even after he went to federal prison for life. He masterminded the shipment of more than two tons of cocaine from his cellblock at USP Lewisburg. The authorities were not amused. Using the prison phones as a drug kingpin switchboard, Rayful plugged all his old customers on the street, into his new connect, sons of the notorious Griselda Blanco, an early leader of the Medellin Cartel. With Chicky Trujillo-Blanco just a cell block away Rayful was back in business. Rayful got busted and set up in July 1994 and instead of taking his time like a man as he did the first time, he decided to turn informer, working for the feds and busting the dudes he was shipping cocaine to in Washington, D.C. Forever tarnishing his image and legacy as a street legend and world class baller. He also cooperated with the Bureau of Prisons into inmate telephone abuse and his cooperation led to the restrictive 300 a month minute limitations now incorporated in the feds.
I was fucked up when I heard Ray had flipped. I actually found out he was fucked up, because during the time he flipped I had just finished up a 5-yr lock down control unit program at the ADX in Florence, CO. They ended up sending me to USP Lewisburg. Rayful was still there when I arrived. The SIS kept me in the hole and wouldn’t let me out for shit. I was like damn I got enough of this lock down shit at the ADX, I’m trying to hit the pound. The officer didn’t say shit he just looked the other way. Finally after three days of this bullshit I got my answer. The officers came and snatched Ray off the pound during count time. I saw the U.S. Marshal’s from the courts take him away and I’m like ain’t this some shit. The next day the SIS called me out of my cell and said “yeah, Tonio, Ray works for us now. All I could think about was slim let these motherfuckers rape him, but I told the SIS ok what the fuck you telling me for all I’m concerned with is when the fuck and I getting off lock down. The lieutenant in charge said that I was never getting out of his hole. Then this motherfucker told me that Ray told him not to let me out, because I might see that something wasn’t right with him and they wasn’t gonna jeopardize their investigation. They ended up shipping me to USP Atlanta, Georgia.
The Edmond lore of fancy cars, gorgeous women and basketball stars still circulates to this day in street lore and legend. His crew’s rise and fall have become milestones in the city’s drug trade but in our nation prisons and those in the know or among those who care about the ideals of omerta and death before dishonor, Rayful’s legacy is that of a rat of the highest order. On the opposite side of the spectrum are men like Antonio “Yo” Jones and his other co-defendants from the case that held true to the code of the streets, including Tony Lewis and Jerry Millington, among others. These are true men of honor that deserve your respect, recognition and accolades. Rayful Edmond was the face of the crew but he was not the crew in total, their places as street icons are safe. They lived and made their beds as men.
After all these years how does it feel to be one of the most stand up dudes from the case?
It’s a good feeling to know that after all these years I can still look in the mirror and love the reflection I see…a lot of so called good dudes no longer share that sentiment. The Jones blood runs through my veins with the same morals I had the day I came to the Pen….death before dishonor!
Isn’t almost everyone home now? Did they get relief from the crack law? Who went home?
Everyone besides Tony Lewis and I are home now. They were released before the crack law was implemented.
It’s just you and Tony and Jerry left in now right, besides Ray? Are you all still fighting? Who else is still in?
Jerry was released a few years ago. It’s just Tony and I. We’re definitely still fighting in court. Hopefully they will give us some act right. We deserve it.
Looking back what do you think about all the hype from the case and notoriety that still exists to this day?
The way I look at the situation is like the past is the past. However, I know some folks will always be curious and fascinated about our story and the shit we did and allegedly done. I guess I can understand why some people still talk about the case. It was an interesting ride. That’s why I decided to write my book. If there’s an honest dollar to be made, I’m all for it. I’ll rather see good men like us get some legitimate paper instead of those cheese eating motherfuckers. They’re some damn good soldiers out there with a story. It seems like more people are willing to talk about a rat rather than a good stand up dude.
Anything else you would like to share or say?
The only thing I would like to say is if you can’t do the time, please stay the fuck out of this game.