Writer: Byron Okada
He called himself Tee.
He was a dealer from the west side of Fort Worth who sold dope near Texas Christian University. He could foot the bill for big purchases if need be. But his supplier had just been taken down by the cops, so he needed a new source. That was April 2005, when he started hanging around a tightly knit east Fort Worth neighborhood controlled by the Crips, talking to the crack dealers on the street.
Tee never acted the part of a gang member — he was just a businessman. Suppliers were suspicious at first. But over the next year, Tee became a regular buyer in the neighborhood, and as he was introduced to leaders higher in the gang’s chain of command he found that they were mostly businessmen, too.
“They were very smart,” he said. “They were businessmen. I could call Tre at 6:30 in the morning and he’d be doing business. The top people were not drug users. They drove average-looking vehicles. The people drawing attention to them get busted. These guys were smarter than that.”
Lookouts were posted near the two entrances to the small neighborhood — called the Fishbowl — on the western edge of Cobb Park, bounded by Colvin Street, Belzise Terrace, Glen Garden Drive and South Riverside Drive. If cops came near, any guns and drugs on the street would quickly disappear.
But Tee could walk in and do business. And after a while, other crack dealers would vouch for him, and true to his word, when larger amounts of drugs were available, he had the money to make the buys.
X-Man supplied the cocaine — about 20 kilograms a week — that eventually made its way to the street. He rarely if ever touched his product.
Zule made the deliveries to the Fishbowl, and once there, it was cooked into crack by Tre and Phat, according to court testimony. There were days when as many as 30 dealers would stand on the sidewalk, or at the corner of Talton Avenue and Belzise Terrace, selling to regulars. Local cops said the neighborhood was “anti-police” and considered impenetrable to surprise raids.
Only regulars could buy. Street dealers stood along the blocks to make sure drugs were divided evenly. Customers would drive down the street and signal to the dealers. Street dealers would come to the car and take an order. Someone else would retrieve the drugs from the nearby woods or from behind one of the houses on the block. Another person usually delivered the drugs to the car.
Several drug houses were set up in the Fishbowl and the nearby Poly area, where the users could go after making their buys. Prostitutes, who were typically users as well, were often on hand to service the dealers, trading tricks for dope. Although the gang leaders tended to avoid using drugs, they joined in with the street dealers in partaking of the prostitutes.
But on May 17, 2006, the massive operation came to an end. In a roundup by 200 federal and local law enforcement officers, 18 people were arrested on drug-trafficking warrants. The early busts netted 25 guns and $1 million in drugs. In the coming days, there were more arrests.
The FBI had been called in months before, extending the Fort Worth Police Department’s resources.
And Tee, it turned out, was an undercover Fort Worth police officer named Tegan Broadwater. Evidence gathered by Broadwater and the FBI during his 13 months undercover would be central to the federal government’s prosecutions.
About half the warrants in the case were for people who did not live in the Fishbowl.
Court testimony during the trials and sentencings — beginning with Tre on Oct. 13, 2006 — indicated that information was passing between defendants through go-betweens and relatives. Threats were exchanged, and it became known that anyone who testified against someone else could expect harsh reprisals once in prison. Tre was stabbed in a Beaumont prison. He was subsequently moved to another prison. (In prison lingo, informants are “given the jacket,” meaning they can’t remove the label of snitch.) Although Fishbowl defendants were scattered to various federal prisons, retribution was common because of the vast network of Crips.
On Wednesday, nearly 19 months after the first round of arrests, U.S. District Judge Terry Means sentenced Zule, 25, to time served, concluding the lengthy federal prosecution of Operation Fishbowl. Zule, who was described as a go-between for criminals higher up in the drug-trafficking chain, had been in federal custody since January 2006. In addition, Zule and his family were threatened repeatedly because of his cooperation with prosecutors.
“I’m just concerned for the safety of my family,” a relative of Zule told Means on Wednesday. The family has moved. Although his federal sentence has been served, Zule remains in custody pending the outcome of a state case.
The 41 federal Fishbowl sentences total 629 years, 7 months and one life sentence. Information gathered for the federal prosecution during the past 19 months resulted in nine cold-case homicides being investigated and 10 more being prosecuted in state court.
In May, Broadwater, who was moved to the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force, was recognized by the Fort Worth Police Department as Officer of the Year.
The small neighborhood, about three miles southeast of downtown Fort Worth, had two well-guarded entrances and was considered impenetrable to surprise raids.
X-Man was the main supplier of cocaine to the east side. Tre and Phat ran the Fishbowl operations. Tre provided drugs to the street dealers to sell to their customers. Phat and a cohort rented a house on Belzise Terrace to distribute marijuana and crack cocaine.
Anyone turning onto Colvin Street would be spotted by a lookout with a walkie-talkie cell phone. Anyone entering at the intersection of Belzise Terrace and Glen Garden Drive would be spotted before reaching the blocks where the drugs were sold.
Although street dealers sold to customers along nearby streets as well, this corner was the most popular spot. Many Fishbowl cases were based on undercover deals made here. “That was basically the 7-Eleven of dope,” Fort Worth police officer Darrell Cleveland said.
The defendants in Operation Fish Bowl were convicted mostly on drug-trafficking charges:
“Big Killa”: Life
“GG”: 60 years
“Pacc”: 40 years
“Sicc”: 30 years
“Big Stick”: 30 years
“Tre”: 20 years
“Dank”: 20 years
“Saint”: 20 years
“Red”: 20 years
“Nasty”: 20 years
“X-Man”: 20 years
“Trelow”: 20 years
“Duece”: 20 years
“Loco-Mo”: 20 years
“Swilla”: 20 years
“Terence”: 20 years
“Trace”: 19 years, 7 months
“JJ”: 19 years, 7 months
“Ced”: 15 years, 8 months
“Beelo”: 15 years, 8 months
“Lil’ One”: 15 years, 6 months
“Razor”: 15 years
“Phat”: 15 years
“Boobie”: 13 years
“R.C,”: 12 years, 6 months
“Dominic”: 11 years, 8 months
“Daka”: 11 years
“Cuda”: 10 years
“Kendrick”: 10 years
“Yolo”: 10 years
“Soma”: 9 years
“Big-C”: 8 years, 4 months
“D”: 7 years, 10 months
“Lou Toc”: 6 years
“LP”: 5 years, 10 months
“Menza”: 5 years, 6 months
“Lorenzo”: 4 years
“C”: 3 years
“Cuzzo”: 2 years
“Kris”: 2 years
“Zule”: 1 year, 11 months
Cocaine in America
1. Texas is the leading entry point for cocaine in the United States.
2. Cocaine production is believed to be increasing because new coca fields have been discovered in Colombia and because record seizures have not resulted in cocaine shortages. (Colombia is the source of nearly 70 percent of the world’s pure cocaine. In 2005, an estimated 545 metric tons were produced.)
3. Cocaine shipments to the United States are primarily through Mexico and are handled by Mexican drug-traffickers such as the Gulf Cartel and The Alliance. Several Mexican organizations are in violent dispute over smuggling routes. Although most of the confrontations are in Mexico, some have spilled into South Texas. Such groups have technology, weapons and communications equal or superior to federal, state and local law enforcement.
4. U.S. law officers seized an estimated 234 metric tons of cocaine in transit in 2005.
5. Mexican, Colombian and African-American drug-trafficking organizations and criminal groups are the prime distributors of cocaine in the southwest United States, which includes Texas.
Sources: Justice Department, National Drug Threat Assessment 2007, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis (South Texas), May 2007