DEA agents and Boston drug investigators were busy early this morning arresting two brothers and their associates on charges of wholesaling cocaine and crack in a swath that ran from the Fidelis Way development in Brighton to the South End and Mattapan.
Brothers Matthew and Kenji Drayton, along with 22 associates, were named in two separate complaints unsealed this morning in US District Court in Boston, following a 20-month DEA investigation that showed gang members kept right on selling even as Boston Police kept arresting individual members over the course of the investigation. Some of the associates allegedly worked for the brothers while others were allegedly their suppliers from other, even larger dealers.
All were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base.
Each of the brothers ran their own drug ring, wholesaling drugs to other Boston dealers, but kept in close contact; Kenji Drayton would sell drugs to his brother for distribution, according to court records. The two rings shared a stash house on Larchmont Street in Dorchester, according to an affidavit by a DEA agent on the case.
According to the affidavit, selling drugs wasn't the only way Kenji Drayton, 40, made money: While the South Boston convention center was operating as a coronavirus field hospital, he worked nights there helping to sterilize the facility. Matthew Drayton, meanwhile, had a job as a maintenance worker and ran his own home-improvement company, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit continues that as the pandemic worsened, Kenji Drayton began having trouble securing cocaine for his customers, because Covid-19 issues were disrupting drug supply chains, in particular for cocaine - which also meant higher prices. The agent described a phone call between Drayton and Derek Hart, one of his alleged suppliers from a larger cocaine operation, on April 24:
HART told K. DRAYTON that he should have cocaine within the next week ("It should be within the week though"). HART indicated that he was supposed to receive something "today," but that it was "40 something." I know that $40,000 for a kilogram of cocaine is expensive and believe that HART was saying that he did not want to pay that much ("they mapping in the air"; "we're gonna figure something out"). HART continued to assure K. DRAYTON that cocaine was coming "sometime this week." I believe that the supply of cocaine to wholesalers like HART has been interrupted by the pandemic, which has, among other things, interfered with supply from Mexico and resulted in border closures, making it harder to move cocaine into the United States.
Man under arrest at 117 Moreland St., address associated with Kenji Drayton (photo by Live Boston):
According to the affidavit, Kenji Drayton ran the larger of the two rings out of his condo at 519 Harrison Ave. in the South End. The affidavit used to charge him and 16 alleged members of his ring and some of his suppliers, such as Hart, is full of details of surveilled drug deals, from Moreland Street in Roxbury to a Burger King in Roslindale to Shafter Road in Dorchester.
It also includes transcripts of numerous phone calls in which drug deals were allegedly arranged, as well as one between one of Kenji Drayton's alleged suppliers, Winston McGhee, and a customer who was complaining that the raw cocaine he'd bought wasn't transforming into crack when he "cooked" it. According to the transcript, McGhee put on an impromptu cooking show, trying to walk the customer through the proper steps:
MCGHEE further explained, "Like ... let the cooked shit, right?" ECHEVARRIA said, "Yup." MCGHEE continued, "With the cooked shit, in there right? No water, no nothing ... " ECHEVERRIA again said, "Yup." MCGHEE said, "Let that shit start to oil back down, right?" ECHEVARRIA replied, "Yup." MCGHEE stated, "As it's oiling, turn it ... .You see it's start clumping back up, right?" ECHEVARRIA replied, "Yup." MCGHEE said, "Than you know when it's about to go down to the goo-goo, when you can spit it and you see it about ... all the shit is about to come back together." ECHEVARRIA agreed, "Yup." MCGHEE stated, "And you lock it right there." ECHEVARRIA replied, "Yup."
And when the customer still didn't seem to get it, McGhee offered to come over and cook it in front of him so he could watch and learn.
The affidavit in his case says the ring continued to operate despite several arrests of members by Boston Police. Ring members had an idea they were under investitation, the agent wrote, and would often change phones or arrange to meet in person to try to avoid surveillance. At one point, before one such meeting, one person got spooked after seeing a Boston cop - active in the area not only as an investigator but as a coach in a youth-sports program - in two different locations on the same day. At another point, two alleged ring members decided to talk over Apple FaceTime in an attempt to avoid their conversation being recorded.
Like other businesspeople, the Drayton operation had everyday business issues. On Feb. 13, two of Kenji Drayton's associates had some trouble agreeing on a place to meet to consummate a deal. They finally settled on a commercial stretch of Morton Street, near the Pit Stop Barbecue. But then one realized: "That means you gotta double park, ain’t gonna be no parking over there."
Kenji Drayton was convicted of a 2001 murder, but in 2018, the Supreme Judicial Court agreed he deserved a new trial after a woman came forward and said the main witness against Drayton was lying because at the time of the murder, he was having sex with her in a bathroom and so could not have seen the murder. At issue was the fact that the woman died before she could be questioned by prosecutors; the SJC ruled her statement was good enough to warrant a new trial.
Matthew Drayton, 43, ran his operation out of the Fidelis Way housing development in Brighton - where he and his associates managed to gain control of several apartments to store and package cocaine and to process some of it into crack. Investigators initially started looking into his operation, then widened their probe after learning about his repeated deals with his brother.
Although Kenji Drayton mostly supplied his brother, on July 2, 2019 Kenji called to ask if he had any cocaine left because he was flat out even as a customer was asking him for some. Matthew Drayton replied, according to the affidavit, that he might have some up at "the bricks" - Fidelis Way - but that he couldn't go up there right then because a BPD drug-unit officer who knew him was up there at the moment. In fact, drug-unit officers were there to do electronic surveillance on Matthew Drayton and had to break out of their covered space to respond to a domestic-violence call in the development.
According to the affidavit, Kenji called Matthew later in the day to say never mind, one of his regular suppliers had called and had some cocaine to sell.