Two men under investigation in a high-profile Los Angeles County murder were convicted Thursday in Riverside of federal drug charges related to a massive Southern California PCP distribution ring.
George Williams and Rodrick Cardale "Lil Rod" Reed, both of Compton, were convicted of manufacturing and distributing PCP and conspiracy to distribute the drug. They face maximum sentences of life in prison.
Drug agents who raided their operation in 2003 recovered 175 kilograms of the drug. Fifty weapons and $117,000 in cash were also confiscated in raids connected to the case.
The 18-month investigation uncovered two major PCP labs in the High Desert cities of Adelanto and Palmdale, along with a cargo van that drug agents said was one of the largest rolling PCP labs ever found.
"This stuff was being used to flood the market in South Central L.A., mostly in Compton," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Det. Ty Labbe.
Williams, a former bodyguard of rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight, and Reed were arrested after federal agents gathered evidence of their involvement in the drug operation by wiretapping their phones.
The two also are being investigated as "persons of interest" in at least one Los Angeles County murder, Labbe said.
Homicide Det. Beth Smith of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department told The Times that that slaying is the April 3, 2002, shooting death of Alton "Buntry" McDonald, Knight's best friend and bodyguard, in Compton.
Reed "absolutely denies involvement in any kind of violent situation," said Joseph T. Vodnoy, Reed's attorney. "There was nothing on the wiretaps to indicate he was complicit to a violent act. If they didn't hear one conversation about a homicide on those 5,000 phone calls, I'd imagine there's nothing there."
Darlene M. Ricker, Williams' attorney, could not be reached for comment.
In the drug case, law enforcement authorities described Reed, 36, as the supervisor of the PCP manufacturing and the man who set the street price, and said Williams was a "top-level" confidant of Reed's.
In U.S. District Court in Riverside, Reed was convicted of manufacturing PCP, aiding and abetting the distribution of PCP, attempted manufacturing of PCP and conspiracy to possess unregistered firearm silencers. Williams was found guilty of conspiring to manufacture and distribute PCP. Also convicted Thursday was Richard Johnson of Compton, who was arrested while driving the van used as a drug lab.
"They utilized the Inland Empire for its remote, hard-to-detect areas, which were ideal for manufacturing PCP and dumping its sludge," Labbe said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher M. Brunwin said the defendants "were transporting an enormous amount of drugs; it was a very involved operation."
Among the 26 charged in connection with the PCP ring, 23 have been convicted or pleaded guilty to crimes.
Law enforcement authorities told The Times in 2003 that Reed, a member of the Fruit Town Piru Bloods, and Williams were suspects in the killings of several associates of Knight, whose label launched the careers of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur and spawned the gangsta rap phenomenon.
Since 1997, eight associates of Knight's have been slain, and investigators in 2003 said they believed there was a "hit" on Knight.
Authorities said in 2003 that Williams had a falling out with Knight over his failure to return two Death Row cars to his boss in 1996.
Knight fired Williams.
Reed and Williams have not been charged in any killings. They will be sentenced in the drug case Nov. 14.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times