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Imprisoned street gang leader used smuggled cellphone to plot kidnap of prosecutor’s dad, DOJ says

Posted Apr 14, 2014 12:20 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A leader of a street gang serving a life sentence in maximum security at a North Carolina prison was federally charged Friday with using a smuggled cellphone to orchestrate the kidnapping of the father of the Wake County prosecutor who convicted him, the federal Department of Justice says.

Kelvin Melton, who was portrayed in 2012 trial testimony as a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang living in New York City, was convicted in North Carolina state court of being a violent habitual felon, among other charges. He was accused in that case of ordering a subordinate to travel to Raleigh and kill the new boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend, according to the Associated Press and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker said Melton made 123 calls and texts from prison instructing subordinates how to kidnap Frank Arthur Janssen, 63, from his Wake Forest home. Janssen was held for five days before being rescued last week in Atlanta by an Federal Bureau of Investigation team and is now in seclusion with his family.

Walker said Melton and his cohorts intended to kill Janssen in retaliation for Melton's conviction in a case prosecuted by Wake County Assistant District Attorney Colleen Janssen.

"Specifically, Melton gave instructions on how to kill Mr. Janssen and dispose of his body," said Walker in a press release. Melton and his cohorts also allegedly made unspecified demands for his benefit.

Before Janssen was rescued, his kidnappers took a photo of him, tied up in a chair, and threatened to torture and dismember him if his daughter called police, the AP article reports.

Another Atlanta Journal-Constitution story provides more details about the phone calls that led the FBI to the suspects in the kidnapping case.

Melton now faces a new kidnapping conspiracy case in federal court in the Eastern District of North Carolina. If convicted, he could get a maximum life term; however, he is already serving life without parole for his 2012 conviction.

Charged with kidnapping on Friday were Melton's alleged Atlanta cohorts: Michael Montreal Gooden, 21; Jenna Paulin Martin, 21; Tiana Maynard, also known as Tiana Brooks, 30; Jevante Price, 20; and Clifton James Roberts, 29.

The articles don't include any comment by the defendants or their legal counsel.

An investigation by multiple agencies is continuing, and will focus in part on how Melton was able to obtain a cellphone in prison. Smuggled cellphones are a common problem in prisons; 747 were confiscated from North Carolina state prison inmates in 2013, the AP article reports.

Secretary Frank L. Perry said the state Department of Public Safety "is deeply concerned about any corrupting influence by inmates against Adult Correction employees and will aggressively investigate and take action against offenders and staff involved in using cellphones to conduct criminal activity from inside prison walls" and will step up its efforts to block the smuggling of contraband items.

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Elite FBI team rescues prosecutor’s dad from kidnappers in Atlanta"

ABAJournal.com: "Unable to Prevent Inmate Cellphone Smuggling, Calif. Ponders Plan to Jam Prison Cellphone Calls"

ABAJournal.com: "Technology blocks smuggled cellphones, but not approved calls, at state prison"

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