Judge jails Vice Lords boss amid dangerous allegations about Detroit gang empire

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
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Detroit — A judge Tuesday ordered the reputed leader of the Almighty Vice Lord Nation in Michigan held without bond pending trial in one of the largest racketeering conspiracy cases in federal court history.

Detroit resident Kevin "Spaghetti" Fordham, 51, deserved to be jailed indefinitely, said U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Altman, citing recorded phone calls and social media posts portraying him as a gun-toting drug dealer who headed a 600-member army in Michigan and other states.

Kevin Fordham

"The drug activity, the drug trafficking, the gang activity … your leadership role in the Vice Lords, possessing weapons — all of that is without question a serious danger to the community,” she said.

The unemployed forklift driver's detention comes amid allegations Fordham's own men want to kill him as part of an internal power struggle that prosecutors fear could lead to bloodshed in Detroit and beyond.

Prosecutors said they fear gang violence following last week's unsealing of a 172-page indictment against 40 Vice Lords members and associates who are accused of committing murder, drug deals, extortion, stabbings and plotting hits on inmates in the Michigan Department of Corrections since 2012.

Fordham faces charges punishable by up to life in prison, including racketeering and drug conspiracy.

Prosecutors on Tuesday characterized Fordham as a drug-dealing gangster who lorded over a sprawling empire from a fortress on the west side of Detroit outfitted with armed guards, rifles and armor-piercing ammunition.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Asher said investigators had intercepted phone calls in which Fordham authorized, sanctioned or discussed three murder plots. And he allegedly bragged about his power. 

"I'm the m------------ king," Fordham boasted, according to the prosecutor.

Fordham, dressed in an orange jailhouse jumpsuit, was animated throughout Tuesday's Zoom hearing, shaking his head, grimacing and rolling his eyes while watching from the Livingston County Jail.

His lawyer, Jerome Sabbota, fought for bond, noting the gang allegations are unproven. Fordham deserved to be released because he has a spotless criminal record and deep ties to Detroit, the lawyer said.

Sabbota downplayed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents finding firearms, ammo and drugs at Fordham's house during a raid Thursday. The lawyer noted marijuana is legal under state law and said Fordham legally possessed the firearms, including two rifles.

“He’s 51, he has no record. The government is throwing all this dirt up against the wall, saying ‘let’s hold him,’” Sabbota said.

Fordham is unlike many of his codefendants. Defendants charged in the case have been involved in 365 felony arrests and 186 felony convictions, said James Deir, special agent in charge of the Detroit office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Only four people charged in the case had been granted bond through Tuesday afternoon and none were in the top leadership ranks.

The judge said Fordham's lack of criminal history worked against him.

“Your lack of criminal history … shows that your leadership role has insulated you from engaging in criminal activity,” the judge said. “You have as many as 600 others who answer to you and can carry out orders…at your direction.”

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews

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