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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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The feds claim to have rounded up a minimum of 10 witnesses who can testify about Meech's involvement in the drug trade. "One witness comes to mind who says that he or she distributed multiple kilograms of cocaine for Demetrius Flenory," DEA Agent Bob Bell testified at Meech's January 2006 bond hearing. "And there's another witness who says that he or she witnessed cocaine being handed back and forth between Demetrius Flenory and others."

Later in the hearing, however, Meech's attorney Findling pointed out that there were several holes in the case against his client, including the fact that none of the witnesses who might testify against Meech had been named.

"The evidence at most establishes that the Defendant hung around members of the organization and benefited from their profits by living in fancy houses and riding in fancy vehicles," Findling said. "The alleged witnesses who were said to have seen the Defendant engage in illegal drug transactions have not been produced."

Findling said the feds could not cite a specific instance in which Meech was involved in a cocaine transaction. When it came time for federal Magistrate Judge Steven Whalen to rule on whether Meech should receive bond, it appeared that Findling's argument was persuasive.

"As far as linking any specific dangerous behavior or certainly threatening of witnesses [to] Mr. Flenory, I don't see it," the judge said. "Really in a lot of ways Mr. Flenory is his own worst enemy -- the magazine articles, the billboards, the big mouth, the lavish lifestyle."

A few moments later, Whalen summed up the case in language evocative of Findling's:

"There is a lot of evidence that he's sort of around this organization," the judge said of Meech. "His brother certainly is portrayed as a leader of this organization. And the defendant is a guy who I think is a beneficiary of the profits of this organization.

"But as far as what he actually did, that remains pretty ambiguous to me. And again, although there's probable cause, I don't think it's necessarily overwhelming evidence based on what I've heard today. And that's all I have to rule on."

Meech was granted a $100,000 bond with the condition he remain under house arrest in Detroit, in the custody of his mother. The U.S. Attorney's Office quickly -- and successfully -- appealed Whalen's decision.

But the issues the judge raised haven't been settled. Most significantly, witnesses still haven't been named. And it's unclear when or if their names will become known. More than a year after Meech and Southwest T were arrested, a trial date in the case has yet to be set.

But if Findling's statements from the January 2006 hearing are any indication, a defense will be raised that the evidence in the case points only to the myth of Big Meech, not his culpability.

At the hearing, Findling described some of the reasons why he believes the feds were drawn to Meech. And his description sounds a lot like those offered by friends and actual members of the Black Mafia Family.

"It is just the aura of Demetrius Flenory," he said. "It is the aura of homes, it is the aura of cars, the aura of money.

"The aura of rap."

[Deep background on the above section]

On a bright summer day in 2006, Bleu DaVinci steered his Dodge Magnum through a Southern California neighborhood, bringing the cameraman in the passenger seat up to speed on the goings-on within BMF Entertainment.

With Meech locked up, Bleu had taken over as CEO of the company that had once put all of its focus behind him. And after the feds came down on BMF, another unexpected event would push back Bleu's sophomore release, The World Is BMF's, Vol. 2.

In the early morning of March 9, 2006, Bleu's brother, Baby Bleu, who was out on bond for the Justin's stabbings, got into a fight with his ex-girlfriend at Buckhead club the Living Room. The fight quickly moved to a nearby parking lot. After it escalated, a friend of his ex-girlfriend shot Baby Bleu dead.

"After my little brother passed away," Bleu said, "my whole campaign for my album slowed down."

Despite the copious resources that were sunk into the video for Bleu's single, "Still Here," and into the advancement of his career, sales of his debut, The World Is BMF's, Vol. 1, were far from impressive. And Vol. 2 only did marginally better.

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