Leader of Massive Cleveland Heroin Ring Convicted, Faces Life in Prison



Left: Keith Ricks in April 2013. Right: Keith Ricks in prison.
  • Left: Keith Ricks in April 2013. Right: Keith Ricks in prison.

One of the main guys running a Cleveland-based drug ring that led to what authorities called the largest ever heroin bust in northeast Ohio was found guilty of nine charges by a federal jury today and, according to reporting by NEOMG, faces mandatory life in prison.

Keith Ricks, now 33, was among the 92 people who went down for their involvement in a heroin ring nearly two years ago. Ricks became one of the main targets — along with local rapper Maceo Moore, known, as "Chase," and few others — once his role in the ring was discovered. He was found guilty of one count of "conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute" more than one kilogram of heroin, and eight counts of using a phone ("a communication facility") to commit a felony.

The operation Ricks helped lead was based around East 117th St. and St. Clair. Ricks was instrumental in setting up a heroin pipeline from Atlanta, and other locations around the country, to Cleveland. In October 2013, we published a feature story on the ring and the bust. Ricks is introduced midway through the story:

The Kingpin Is Found and Everyone Loves Social Media

At the end of January, two calls placed on Shephard's tapped phone implicated three other major players in the East 117th circle: Maurice Golston, 33, Dionte Thompson, 25, and Keith Ricks, 31. Those three would join Maceo Moore, Shephard, and Blue as the main six targeted by the FBI, but it was Ricks, they learned, who was the guy. The Federal indictment would be named United States of America vs. Ricks et. al., after all.

"Have you seen big bro?" Shephard said in a January 30 call to an East 117th associate, Maurice Golston, "You seen Keith?"

Golston didn't know where Keith Ricks was and Shephard needed to talk to him about something important. So he called Keith's little brother, Dionte Thompson.

Shephard: "You talked to your brother?

Thompson: "No, I think that nigga left."

Shephard was urgently trying to talk to Ricks about a courier who'd be bringing heroin from down south. Keith Ricks was in the Atlanta area, working on major deals to bring multi-kilogram loads of heroin back to Cleveland for distribution by any of the arms of the East 117th circle. He'd been doing that for awhile, apparently, sending product through the mail, having people drive it back and forth, or ferrying it on couriers on the bus.

By the time his name landed on a wiretap, he'd been flying regularly (first-class, according to his Twitter account), between Marietta, Georgia, and his mother's house on East 118th, where he would take care of business locally.

He was the big mind of the group with ideas that went beyond parochial beefs or boundaries. Ricks would organize other east Cleveland dealers to pool their money together for unified, large-scale purchases at wholesale prices down South and then distribute the product back home, dealers free to rake in bigger profits on the street level.

When Shephard (in Cleveland) connected with Ricks (in Atlanta) on the phone on Feb. 9, he needed to talk to him about an unreliable potential courier who wasn't calling him back about a trip to Atlanta he was supposed to take later that day. Shephard had another guy in mind who would be up for a job.

"Man, that nigga... man, you gotta holler at Soldier," Ricks told him. When Shephard agreed, Ricks told him to go get him. "Just call me and say 'yeah' and then I'll tell you what to do then."

Just 40 minutes later, Maurice Golston called Shephard. Golston had just picked up "Soldier" and put him on the phone with Shephard. After Soldier said "hello," Shephard got to the point: "Hey, you wanna take a trip?"

A few hours later, intercepted calls between Dionte Thompson and Shephard confirmed Soldier was on a Greyhound bus to Atlanta to pick up a package from Keith Ricks. Ricks then called Shephard to tell Soldier to call him from the bus station, and the two talked again when Ricks was late picking up Soldier in Atlanta (on Feb. 9, Ricks tweeted: "Fresh cut now time 2 link up wit my NY homies n these ATL streets..").

Continue reading the October 2013 story on Keith Ricks and the entire operation here.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.