allegedly used chartered jets to smuggle hundreds of pounds of cocaine and millions of dollars in drug money. Christine Pelisek talks to investigators.
Ricky James Brascom was living the high life. As the CEO of Behind da Scenes Entertainment, he was well-known in the rap industry, and regularly hobnobbed with celebrities. He had recently shot a video with P Diddy and was a guest at Justin Timberlake’s birthday party in Las Vegas.
In October, the 28-year-old music executive, who went by the nickname DP, bought a beautiful home in a gated community in L.A.'s Woodland Hills. One of his neighbors was Dr. Dre. He drove around in a $250,000 2010 Aston Martin Rapides and a 2009 BMW 750 Li.
He bought his girlfriend a 2008 Mercedes CL63 AMG. His MySpace page says that Brascom started Behind da Scenes Entertainment in February of this year. He lists his band members as himself, Ransom, and Embryo.
But federal prosecutors say that Brascom was really a ringleader of a huge cocaine ring that used chartered jets to ship hundreds of pounds of cocaine to Baltimore from Los Angeles. Brascom and 13 other defendants allegedly bought large amounts of cocaine, arranged for the drugs to be flown on private jets, oversaw distribution of the cocaine in the Baltimore area, and flew suitcases full of cash back to Los Angeles.
“Because of the fact he had a lot of money, he got to live in the world the rest of us don’t live in,” says Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob B. Villeza.
The shipments were flown out of Van Nuys Airport, Ontario International Airport, and LAX by Los Angeles pilot Leonardo Concepcion, who was employed by Star Jet. Concepcion was also named in the indictment.
“They were using the smaller model planes that don’t require a crew,” he says. “The coke was flown in suitcases.” Villeza says the men would pull their limousines up to the plane and load their suitcases on the plane without any scrutiny.
“Because of the fact he had a lot of money, he got to live in the world the rest of us don’t live in.”
“There are no security measures that will examine or inspect what is in your luggage,” adds Villeza. “Charter jets are really expensive. It can range from $20,000 to 50,000 a flight, depending on the flight. But if you are flying cocaine worth millions of dollars, and your profit is substantially more than $50,000, you might determine it is a wise investment.”
During a six-week period, the ring moved more than 390 kilograms of cocaine, and over $4 million in drug cash, according to court documents. During that time, federal law-enforcement authorities intercepted 298 kilograms of cocaine and $1.1 million.
“The individuals indicted today have been brought to justice as the result of the joint effort by federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies spanning from L os Angeles to Baltimore,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Landrum. “This operation demonstrates the poisoning lure of drugs and money that continue to impact our communities.”
Also busted was Darrin Ebron, a Baltimore DJ who allegedly acted as a drug distributor for Brascom. Ebron, known in Hollywood as the “poor man’s Puffy,” worked in the fashion and entertainment business and was the disc jockey when actor Eddie Murphy married Tracey Edmonds in 2008 on an island off Bora Bora; Charles Dwight Ransom Jr., 36, of Hollywood, another “CEO” of Behind da Scenes Entertainment, also allegedly shipped cocaine to his own distributors in Baltimore and shepherded cocaine shipments for Brascom. Both Ransom and Ebron are still at-large.
The drugs were received from a Los Angeles supplier named Heriberto "Big Dog" Lopez, who was also indicted. He has yet to be arrested. Brascom’s brother, Jerome, was arrested along with Steven Velazquez, a courier for Lopez. Marlon Parris, who accompanied a shipment of cocaine to Baltimore, and Alberto Cruzado, 57, another courier for Lopez, have not been apprehended.
Operation Snow Bird was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Ventura County Combined Agency Team, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the Air & Marine Operations Center.
Christine Pelisek is staff reporter for The Daily Beast, covering crime. She previously was a reporter at the LA Weekly, where she covered crime for the last five years. In 2008, she won three Los Angeles Press Club awards, one for her investigative story on the Grim Sleeper.