Gang leader gets prison time in violent racketeering case

A street gang leader was sentenced to 23 years in federal prison Tuesday for his role in a racketeering conspiracy that involved the cold-blooded slaying of a neighborhood security guard more than a decade ago.

Markette Tillman, 31, a member of the Playboy Bloods, also was ordered to serve three years of supervised release after prison.

Tillman abruptly pleaded guilty in July on the second day of his federal trial to drug trafficking and racketeering conspiracy charges. He admitted participating with other gang members in the January 2004 slaying of security guard Brian Wilcox at a housing complex where the Playboy Bloods dealt crack cocaine.

A Clark County jury had acquitted Tillman in Wilcox’s killing in 2005.

As part of his plea deal with prosecutors, Tillman agreed to accept no less than the 23-year prison sentence. He tried to withdraw his plea in November, claiming he was misled and his lawyers were “in cahoots” with the government, but Senior U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson refused to let him out of the deal.

In court Tuesday, Dawson was not impressed with Tillman’s emotional plea for credit for the more than three years he served in state custody on a probation violation after his 2007 FBI arrest in the racketeering case. Dawson denied the request.

A tearful Tillman blamed his actions on growing up under the wing of “crackhead” parents in the crime -infested housing projects of Las Vegas.

“That’s all I know and all I’ve seen in my whole life,” he said.

Tillman told Dawson that his mother taught him how to sell drugs, and he did it to survive on the streets and and support his younger siblings. He said he has since found religion behind bars and is now a different man.

In court papers, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas Dickinson and Phillip Smith Jr. argued that Tillman, despite his guilty plea, does not accept responsibility for Wilcox’s death and was playing games with the court.

Smith read a letter from Wilcox’s sister condemning Tillman for taking away her brother

“I hate you, and I will never forgive you,” Laura Wilcox wrote.

She told Dawson that her older brother’s slaying left her with depression and drug addiction. It also left her alone to deal with two ailing parents, she said.

Dawson sympathized with the younger Wilcox and said Tillman did little to overcome his tough upbringing.

Tillman, who is in federal custody, is the last of 10 defendants convicted in the racketeering case, which was brought by the FBI in 2008.

In October another gang member, Jacorey Taylor, was sentenced to life in prison in relation to a separate 2004 retaliation murder and a 2002 armed robbery of a Henderson casino.

The Playboy Bloods primarily dealt crack cocaine in the Sherman Garden Annex — often called the “Jets” — at H and Doolittle streets.

During the course of the FBI-led investigation, members were captured on videotape and audiotape selling crack cocaine to undercover informants, according to prosecutors.

They used violence, including murder, to protect their criminal enterprise and often faced off against rival gangs. They also targeted security officers assigned to the housing complex, prosecutors alleged.

Wilcox, 29, was shot in the back while riding his bicycle away from the scene of a disturbance and later died.

Dickinson on Tuesday called his death “very said,” saying Wilcox had done nothing wrong.

Taylor was convicted of participating in the November 2004 slaying of another man, Billy Ray Thomas.

Gang members shot and killed Thomas while he was working on his car at the Pecos Terrace Apartments on East Lake Mead Boulevard. He was shot in retaliation for a rival gang’s slaying of a Playboy Bloods leader, according to prosecutors.

Several of the Playboy Bloods, mistakenly believing the Crips gang had killed their leader, drove around Crips territory until they came across Thomas, prosecutors alleged.

It turned out that Thomas, who was shot multiple times in the back, was not a Crips member.

Contact Jeff German at or 702-380-8135. Find him on Twitter: @JGermanRJ.

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