DETROIT – Police have accused five people in connection with the murder-for-hire case targeting a Novi man outside a popular Detroit restaurant. Officials said the man was fatally shot because others wanted to take his spot in an intricate drug and fraud scheme throughout Detroit.
Deaunta Belcher, 35, Andre Watson, 32, Billie J. Chambers, 33, and Stephen Brown, 27, all of Detroit, and Darnell Bailey, 29, of Roseville, are all accused in connection with the fatal shooting of Devin Wallace, 30, of Novi.
Police said Belcher, Bailey and Wallace were part of an intricate drug and fraud scheme throughout Detroit in which they obtained cars, apartments, furniture and other items by using the identities of drug customers and other victims. They would then lease those items to drug dealers throughout the city, police said.
Belcher and others decided to kill Wallace out of greed so they could take over his role in the fraud and drug conspiracy, according to authorities.
Investigators said Belcher and Bailey offered Watson and Brown money, a car and other compensation to murder Wallace.
Watson and Brown spent weeks trying to find Wallace, police said. On Sept. 11, 2015, Belcher told Watson and Brown that Wallace would be at They Say, a restaurant at 267 Jos Campau in Detroit.
Watson, Brown and Chambers drove to They Say, where Brown fired shots toward Wallace twice and Watson shot Wallace 12 times at close range, according to authorities.
Nine bullets struck Wallace, six in his head, police said. He died at the scene.
Belcher and Bailey told police that Wallace was killed for cooperating with the Drug Enforcement Administration in a separate drug investigation in an effort to mislead investigators, police said.
After a four-week trial, Belcher and Watson were convicted Wednesday by a federal jury in Detroit on charges of murder-for-hire, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and oxycodone and use of a firearm causing death during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said.
"These defendants carried out a brazen, cold-blooded murder in broad daylight near downtown Detroit, and the shooting shocked our community when it was broadcast on the evening news," Schneider said. "Thanks to the tireless efforts of the FBI and the Detroit Police Department, the people of Detroit can rest easier knowing these defendants will remain behind bars for the rest of their lives."
Belcher was also convicted for obstruction of justice for trying to mislead investigators regarding his relationship with Brown on Sept. 24, 2015, officials said.
"This case demonstrates the violence that accompanies large-scale narcotics trafficking,” said Special Agent in Charge Timothy R. Slater, of the Detroit Division of the FBI. "With yesterday’s conviction, Deaunta Belcher and Andre Watson have been held accountable for their part in these crimes and the City of Detroit is safer as a result."
Bailey, Chambers and Brown previously pleaded guilty to murder-for-hire. They are awaiting sentencing.
"We certainly appreciate the partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Violent Crime Task Force," Detroit police Chief James Craig said. "This partnership is yet another example of how we can work together to combat violent crimes in our community and bring offenders to justice."
Murder-for-hire carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Use of a firearm causing death during and in retaliation to drug trafficking carries a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison since shots were fired.
The conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and oxycodone and obstruction of justice charges carry maximum sentences of 20 years.