Two Fruit Belt Gang Members Plead Guilty To Gun Charge
BUFFALO, N.Y (STL.News) U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Antwaine Parker, 28, and Michael Woods, 32, both of Buffalo, NY, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge John L. Sinatra, Jr. to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Each faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremiah E. Lenihan, who is handling the case, stated that since August 2019, the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force has been investigating the Fruit Belt Gang, whose members are allegedly actively engaged in the distribution of narcotics, firearms offenses, and gang activity. On July 1, 2020, Central Park Gang (CPG) member Shariff Jackson was murdered in Buffalo, and investigators believe that members of the Fruit Belt Gang were involved with Jackson’s murder.
On July 4, 2020, defendants Parker and Woods were shot on Sycamore Avenue in Buffalo. Woods, who was shot in the head and spine, drove himself to the hospital, after throwing a gun from the scene. A 9mm handgun was recovered on the roof of a nearby building. Woods told investigators that he was driving in the area with an unnamed person when he was shot; he would not provide any additional information. Investigators believe the shooting could be the result of rival gang activity between CPG and the Fruit Belt.
In July 2020, both Woods and Parker posted photographs of themselves possessing firearms on social media accounts associated with them. Woods appeared to possess one gun, while Parker appeared to possess two guns.
On July 14, 2020, investigators, fearing potential violence in connection with it, conducted surveillance at the funeral of Shariff Jackson. At the same time, they also conducted surveillance of defendant Parker, who was in the vicinity of 28 Burnie Lane in the McCarley Gardens Apartments. During the surveillance, Woods was observed driving to the area were Parker was. After talking with Parker, Woods left the area. A short time later, a Buffalo Police Officer initiated a traffic stop of Woods’ vehicle. Woods told the officer that he had two guns in the vehicle and gave consent to search the vehicle. Officers recovered two loaded handguns. Woods was taken into custody and the handguns were seized . Subsequently, defendant Parker left the McCarley Gardens Apartments, and the Buffalo Police conducted a traffic stop. Parker’s vehicle, which had invalid license plates, was impounded, and Parker was ticketed for various vehicle and traffic violations. Investigators then searched 28 Burnie Lane and recovered two firearms in the basement. Investigators believe the two firearms seized are the same weapons depicted in the social media photo showing Parker with two firearms.
In April 2014, Parker was convicted in state court of Criminal Possession of a Weapon and sentenced to serve 42 months in prison. In March 2012, Woods was convicted in state court of Attempted Criminal Possession of Controlled Substances and sentenced to serve five years’ probation. In addition, Woods was sentenced in July 2015 to serve 84 months in prison after being convicted of possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and being a felon in possession of a firearm. As a result, both defendants are legally prohibited from possessing a firearm.
The pleas are the result of an investigation by the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Byron Lockwood, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia, and the Erie Crime Analysis Center, under the direction of Director Jamie Giammaresi.
Parker and Woods are each scheduled to be sentenced on August 3, 2021, before Judge Sinatra.