Former Los Angeles Sheriff’s Lieutenant, and His Son, a Former Compton Cop, Indicted for Cross-Country Drug & Money Laundering Conspiracy
Last week twenty-two alleged members and associates of two street gangs, the Los Angeles-based Grape Street Crips, and the Memphis-based Peda Roll Mafia, were indicted by a federal grand jury for being part of a reported drug and money laundering pipeline that ran between Memphis, Tennessee, and Los Angeles.
According to acting US Attorney Lawrence Laurenzi, of the Western District of Tennessee, members of the Grape Street Crips supplied heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and various other pharmaceutical substances to members the Peda Roll Mafia, who then distributed the drugs throughout much of Tennessee.
News of this newly unsealed indictment would not normally be of great interest to most LA readers. Yet, it turns out that two of those indicted—Reginald Wright, Sr. and Reginald Wright, Jr.—are former members of Southern California law enforcement.
Reginald Wright, Sr, is a former lieutenant of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who retired from the LASD on May 30, 2014. Prior to his time with the LA County Sheriffs, Wright, Sr. was a gang enforcement lieutenant on the Compton Police Department, until that agency was shut down in 2000 under a cloud of scandal.
Wright, Sr.’s son, Reginald Wright, Jr. has a somewhat more complicated past. Like his dad, Reggie Wright, Jr. worked for the Compton PD. But, in many circles, the younger Wright is better known as the former head of security for Suge Knight’s Death Row Records. In relationship to his former position at Death Row, in the past decade, Wright Jr. has been the subject of rumors, accusations, and counter accusations having to do with the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls.
The names of both Wright, Sr. and Wright, Jr. have come up in some of the media stories about the two murders, and related issues. There is, for example, this 2001 PBS Frontline interview with Russell Poole, the late LAPD Robbery/Homicide detective who, after his retirement, became known for his private investigation into the death of Shakur and Small.
Then, in 2015, VICE Magazine did a story before Poole died about the detective’s conviction that Wright, Jr. had been involved in Tupac Shakur’s death. On the opposite side of the rumor and counter-rumor mill, in 2014, Reggie Wright, Jr. did a lengthy interview with the LA Weekly in which he explained how and why his accusers got it wrong.
Three-plus Year Investigation Began in 2013
According to US Attorney Laurenzi, the multi-agency federal investigation that resulted in the indictments against the Wrights and 20 others began in 2013, and led to the seizure of 11,950 grams of marijuana, 3,270 grams of cocaine, 2,880 grams of heroin, 3,260 grams of methamphetamine, and twenty-three pistols, including an AR-15.
If the start date for the California part of the investigation into the alleged drug sales and money laundering conspiracy also began in 2013, this would mean that Reggie Wright, Sr. would have still been working for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department when the feds began looking at reported wrongdoing among the alleged LA co-conspirators.
As mentioned above, Wright, Sr. came to the LASD after the Compton Police Department, where he was a lieutenant working the department’s gang detail, was disbanded in July, 2000, by the Compton City Council. The department was shut down, in part, because the city was plagued by violent crime, but reportedly also because of allegations made in a 95-page report by Compton PD’s internal affairs bureau that recounted tales of guns and large amounts of narcotics vanishing from the department’s evidence vault. According to multiple accounts, the report was triggered after a Long Beach police officer, Bryant Watts, was shot by a gun that was later found to have been in the possession of the Compton police.
When the Compton PD was dissolved, the City Council voted to give the $12.3-million yearly contract for policing the city to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. LA County Sheriff Lee Baca attended the meeting during which the vote was taken, and pledged to offer employment to any eligible Compton police officer with the LASD.
Wright, Sr. was among those hired. According to LA Sheriff’s Department spokesperson, Nicole Nishida, he joined the department in September 2000.
The federal indictment alleges that both Reginald Wright, Sr., and Reginald Wright, Jr. are now members of the Grape Street Crips, and that two of their reported co-conspirators are associated with a Mexican Drug cartel.