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Hip-hop's shadowy empire

In the summer of 2005, the party would get out of hand for Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory and the Black Mafia Family. And the feds would be ready to make their move. Part 3 of 3



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Likewise, the billboards BMF placed around town proclaimed, “The World is BMF’s.”

[Deep background on the above section]

In the summer of 2004, Meech rented out Westside mega-club Compound for his 36th birthday. The sprawling courtyard and ultra-modern lounge were adorned with 6-foot white neon letters that spelled "Meech," BMF's insignia carved in ice, half-naked models with painted-on bikinis and $100,000 in rented wildlife, including an elephant, a few zebras and a pair of lions. Revelers gawked as the big cats paced restlessly in their cage.

The grandeur of the party carried over to BMF's behavior in the clubs, particularly strip clubs. BMF members have credited themselves with inventing a phenomenon called "making it rain." They would toss fistfuls of money in the air. The bills would descend like droplets. And the crowd would go wild.

"A lot of niggas don't like to spend their money," Meech says on the DVD magazine Smack. "We love to spend money. Just a fool and his money won't part. When we go out at night, whatever we spend, $50,000, $100,000 in the muthafuckin' club, we can afford to do it, because we can't bring it all with us. Simple."

He meant that they couldn't bring it with them to the grave. But his brother, Terry "Southwest T" Flenory, was worried that Meech was generating so much heat in hip-hop circles that both brothers would wind up in that other place where wealth must be left behind: prison.

According to the feds, Southwest T had moved to L.A. in 2000 to be with his girlfriend and her children. Investigators believed he lived in a $3 million spread on Mulholland Drive. Nonetheless, he was the more understated of the Flenory brothers. He might, as the feds would allege, have been holding down BMF's West Coast hub, but he at least was trying to do so in relative obscurity.

At around the time of Meech's birthday party, Southwest T shared with his sister his frustration over his older brother's eagerness to be cast in the public spotlight -- and to hang out with a crowd that was no good for "the family." Southwest T told her about how he and Meech had always been partners, 50-50. And he thought Meech wasn't being mindful of their even split. Meech's excess -- a lifestyle that Southwest T had little to do with -- had the potential to bring the wrong kind of attention to both of them. He told his sister he didn't want to end up behind bars for years. He "couldn't do no 20," he said.

His suspicions were more well-founded than he imagined: At that particular moment, the feds were listening in on his call.

The conversation was among hundreds that DEA agents intercepted through six months of wiretaps on Southwest T's phones. They listened as he spoke about dropping some serious cash on Lakers tickets. ("You know what I'm saying, if you going with a group, you going to spend $50,000 to $60,000 to sit in the prime seats.") They heard him give the go-ahead on the purchase of an $159,000 Bentley. (He said he'd pay for it the following day with a check from his company.) And they became suspicious as he offered support to the brother of "Playboy," one of two men caught on a Missouri highway with coke allegedly linked to BMF. (When the brother told Southwest T he was worried that the other man busted during the stop, "Pig," would turn state's witness against Playboy, Southwest T told him not to worry; Pig would "live up to his responsibilities.")

And yet in the hours upon hours of conversations screened by the feds, the only significant mention of Meech was Southwest T's concern that his partying was getting out of control and could end in trouble. That wasn't exactly an investigative breakthrough. Despite Meech's flamboyance, Southwest T was proving an easier target than his flashier brother.

Within months, however, another series of wiretaps would help bring investigators closer to Meech.

In the fall of 2004, members of the Fulton County District Attorney's Office and an inter-agency drug task force began to shadow two alleged BMF members and listen in on their calls. Investigators later busted one of them, Jeffery Leahr, with 10 kilos of what they believed was the organization's coke. The other man, Omari McCree, went on the run, only to be picked up by police nearly a year later. Omari's 2005 arrest -- and an incriminating statement against Meech that accompanied it -- capped a summer of excess that led to a major blow against the Black Mafia Family.

Even in 2004, there's a good chance Meech saw it coming. But despite the obvious warning signs, he didn't play by the rules. During the champagne-soaked and bullet-riddled spring and summer of 2005, Big Meech Flenory and his crew refused to slow down.

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