When the FBI began gathering proof that the Schuele Boys were an organized street gang, agents came across some unusual evidence – two rap music videos.
Titled "Front Door" and "Dinner Table," the videos were produced by Gone Entertainment, a record label the Schuele Boys created to boldly tout the gang's triumphs, according to prosecutors.
One of the videos shows gang members being served plates of cash while dining at an upscale Northtowns steakhouse while another shows them cooking crack cocaine at a house on its turf just south of the Erie County Medical Center, the government alleges in court papers.
The videos will be made public during the trial of Roderick Arrington, one of just two Schuele Boys members still facing charges. More than 20 other gang members pleaded guilty over the past two years.
"They started out small," Assistant U.S. Attorney Wei Xiang told jurors last week. "But in the fall of 2004, they hit the jackpot."
The Schuele Boys operated in the neighborhood between Bailey Avenue and Grider Street, and prosecutors say they created a climate of fear that permeated their community for nearly 15 years.
Arrington's lawyer says the allegations are exaggerated and suggested the music videos are the government's only evidence of an organized criminal enterprise.
"All we have is a bunch of freelance drug dealers who grew up on the same street," defense attorney Andrew C. LoTempio told the jury. "The government made a federal offense out of something that's a street crime."
Over time, two fatal shootings, six years apart, came to define the Schuele Boys. Until last week, Arrington was expecting Marcel Worthy, the gang's alleged ring leader, to join him on trial.
Worthy changed the game plan when he pleaded guilty on the eve of the trial.
"Unequivocally, Arrington was the shooter," Xiang said of one of the two murders. "He pulled out a gun and shot Quincy Balance three times. And Balance dropped dead on the spot."
At the heart of the prosecution against Arrington is Balance's murder near Northland and Stevens avenues in August 2012.
The government says Balance was killed because he was suspected of killing Schuele Boys associate Walter Davison on Carl Street four days earlier. Prosecutors say Arrington, whom they described as "muscle" for the gang, shot and killed Balance in an act of revenge.
"Making money off the streets is a dangerous business," Xiang told the jury at one point.
On the same day Worthy's jury was being picked, he pleaded guilty to two felony charges – racketeering conspiracy and narcotics conspiracy – and admitted a role in the killing of 16-year-old Kevin Gray in December 2006.
Gray was killed after Worthy and several other Schuele Boys confronted him and other teens at a gas station near Grider and East Delavan Avenue and asked them if they were members of the Chelsea Boys, a rival gang, according to prosecutors.
Later that day, a Schuele Boys member fired into the same group of teens on Durham Avenue and Gray, who was not a gang member, was killed. Worthy, as part of his plea deal, acknowledged he was at the murder scene but stopped well short of admitting he pulled the trigger.
"There's no evidence my client shot anybody," said defense lawyer Nelson S. Torre.
Shut down by the feds, the Schuele Boys are still defunct but there was a time when law enforcement saw them as one of the most violent criminal organizations in the city.
At every turn, LoTempio has fought that characterization.
"There is no enterprise here," he told the jury last week. "There is no conspiracy here, and Mr. Arrington is not a partner in it."
The gang was also seen as a major drug trafficker, specializing in cocaine, crack and marijuana. In November 2011, police seized 24 kilograms of cocaine estimated to be worth $1 million from a Schuele Boys member and others.
Xiang said the gang's role as drug dealers took a sudden turn in 2004 when the organization connected with a middle man who had ties to large-scale drug traffickers in Texas.
"He made these guys rich," Xiang told the jury.
Even before the federal indictment charging the Schuele Boys, the gang was well known to law enforcement officials, in part because of the infamous City Grill shooting seven years ago.
Early on in the case, federal prosecutors said members of the gang were at the Main Street bar and restaurant and may have been among the targets when a fight broke out inside and eventually spilled into the street.
The killer, Riccardo M. McCray, also known by the nickname "Murder," was convicted of murdering four people that night and sentenced to life in prison without parole. During McCray's trial, prosecutors said he fired 10 shots in 17 seconds, causing "death and injury on a level this city has never seen before."