Killer ran Victory Inn brothel, is on the run, feds say
Detroit — The alleged pimp in charge of an operation that enslaved 14 women and turned the Victory Inn into a drug-ridden brothel is convicted killer Darrick Dernard Bell, The Detroit News has learned.
Bell, 48, is a six-time felon known as “Tone,” who has managed to elude federal investigators since Jan. 12, when almost 200 law-enforcement personnel raided the Victory Inn in one of the largest federal sweeps in Detroit history.
Bell, who is identified as the leader in court records, is missing despite federal agents and Detroit police capturing his alleged lieutenant, Detroiter Shelvie Avery, 50, on Friday following a weeks-long manhunt. Avery made a brief appearance in federal court Tuesday and agreed to be locked up pending trial.
Bell, meanwhile, is described by law enforcement officials as a mysterious kingpin with 12 aliases who allegedly controlled drug and sex-trafficking activity at the motel along Michigan Avenue, east of Wyoming Avenue near the Dearborn border. Authorities allege Bell headed a criminal organization with a chain of command, spies posted outside the motel and a body count.
“There appeared to be a hierarchy,” said Jeremy Forys, a Homeland Security Investigations special agent who helped plan the Victory Inn raid. He testified during a January court hearing about Bell being the “main target” of the federal investigation.
Early on, investigators struggled to learn “Tone’s” real name.
The inside story behind one of the largest law enforcement raids in Detroit history that shuttered a drug-riddled motel agents likened to a brothel.
“He was like Keyser Soze,” a law enforcement official told The News, speaking on condition of anonymity and referring to the elusive villain from the 1995 film “The Usual Suspects.”
Bell is one of at least three men connected to the case being hunted by federal agents.
Agents learned of a leader overseeing drugs and sex trafficking at the Victory Inn after launching the investigation Sept. 16.
That’s when a suspected human trafficking victim was taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital after ingesting heroin, court records show.
“The woman was pretty incoherent,” Forys testified during an earlier court hearing.
The woman said she was transporting heroin for a man named “Tone” and swallowed the drug after being stopped by law enforcement officers.
The woman said “Tone” was “a drug dealer and a pimp who (used) women to prostitute themselves under his control,” Forys wrote in a court filing.
“Tone” had as many as eight women working for him at the motel.
Bell’s rap sheet spans almost 30 years, including convictions for assault with a dangerous weapon, drugs and a 1996 conviction for second-degree murder, according to court records.
On Oct. 3, agents interviewed the victim from Detroit Receiving Hospital again. She told investigators “Tone” gave prostitutes drugs “so they will continue to conduct commercial sex dates,” Forys wrote in a court filing.
“Tone” also repeatedly physically assaulted the woman. Another woman told investigators “Tone” made daily drug deliveries to the motel, usually before noon.
The team of pimps and drug dealers overtook the 42-room motel — leaving two rooms for legitimate customers, The News has learned.
As many as 20 women were forced to live in inhumane conditions and have sex with customers in motel rooms that cost $55 per night — or $35 for three hours.
Avery, meanwhile, is at least the third person arrested in connection with the sex-trafficking case.
Convicted sex offender Bryant Daugherty, 46, an eight-time felon and another felon, Michael Randol, 42, both of Detroit, are being held without bond and facing charges in federal court.
Federal investigators called the Victory Inn a “den of iniquities” where cocaine, heroin and flesh were sold with help from motel staff.
On Jan. 27, a Wayne County judge shuttered the Victory Inn for one year after declaring the motel a public nuisance.
Anyone with information is asked to call Homeland Security Investigations’ tip line 1-888-DHS-2-ICE.