A Detroit drug trafficking gang that called itself “Team Cookies” used domestic flights to transport its illicit cargo, The Detroit News reports. And it washed profits through MotorCity Casino and other gaming establishments, according to court filings.
Federal authorities in February charged 13 people with drug and money laundering conspiracy linked to the distribution of fentanyl, oxycodone, meth, cocaine, crack cocaine, and marijuana.
The gang’s MO for was a system known as “ghost baggage.” This involved Phoenix, Ariz.-based operatives buying airplane tickets to Detroit and checking in unescorted baggage packed with drugs. But they would not get on the flight.
At Detroit Metropolitan Airport, couriers would be waiting at the carousel to pick up the stashed luggage. The drugs were then distributed for sale in various states, including Michigan and Kentucky, according to prosecutors.
A Million Pills
“This indictment … involved a drug trafficking organization that engaged not only in trafficking some drugs but trafficking an immense amount of drugs,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Portelli said in court, as reported by the DN. “Over a million pills of fentanyl … are involved in this, as well as … other substances.”
The gangs’ activities came to the attention of federal authorities in October 2020, when the when US Drug Enforcement Administration intercepted a suspicious bag on a flight from Phoenix to Detroit, following a tip off.
Inside was almost 2.5 lbs. of cocaine and $7,950 in cash. Its recipient in Detroit was a woman named Kapri Oldham. She refused to cooperate with DEA when questioned. But when investigators searched her phone, they found she had recently interacted via Instagram with a user named “WhoppDog.”
Investigators identified WhoppDog as 37-year-old Detroiter Kyle Kennard, whom prosecutors characterize as a dangerous and heavily armed criminal.
Traced Via Instagram
The WhoppDog account contained numerous images of cash, casino chips, drugs, and guns. It also contained photos of luggage and luggage tags.
Prosecutors say the gang would take a picture of the slip provided by the airlines for baggage claim and share it with the individual tasked with picking it up from the airport.
This allowed investigators to trace other members of the gang via their social media accounts. Among them is codefendant Leo Todd, 33, who prosecutors believe is the kingpin of the operation.
Many of the images on Kennard’s account were taken at a time when he was under house arrest and wearing a GPS ankle bracelet from a separate criminal case. The bracelet is clearly visible in some of the photos.
Kennard was a regular at MotorCity, where he used an assumed name, “Cajuan Johnson,” to launder money, according to court documents.
Todd and Kennard face at least 10 years in federal prison if convicted.
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