Man accused of conspiring to murder witness sentenced to 40 years

BALTIMORE - Provided by the U.S. Department of Justice

U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis sentenced Bruce Eric Byrd, age 27, of Baltimore, today to 40 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for using and discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, specifically, the murder of a witness in a bank fraud investigation.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Acting Special Agent in Charge Ashan Benedict of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - Baltimore Field Division; Postal Inspector in Charge Gary R. Barksdale of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division; Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Barksdale.
According to Byrd's plea agreement, from May 2009 to November 9, 2011, Tavon Davis, Frank Marfo and others were involved in a scheme to steal money orders from rent deposit boxes at apartment complexes, then deposit the funds into fraudulent business savings, checking and payroll accounts at banks.  The conspirators withdrew the deposited funds from ATMs and other means before the banks discovered that the funds were stolen.  Over the course of the conspiracy, Marfo  stole and Davis directed the deposit of at least $1 million in stolen money orders.

From May 2009 until April 2011, Davis recruited Isaiah Cortez Callaway to participate in the bank fraud scheme.  Davis directed Callaway to open fraudulent accounts at banks, deposit the stolen money orders and checks into those accounts and withdraw cash. Callaway was also directed to recruit and pay other individuals to open the fraudulent business accounts and to provide those individuals with documentation to present to the banks in support of the fraudulent accounts.  On December 29, 2010, Callaway was arrested by Baltimore County Police while he was directing two individuals to open fraudulent business accounts.  Callaway was charged with possession of counterfeit documents and theft.  Following his arrest, Callaway admitted to Baltimore County Police detectives his participation in the bank fraud scheme and told detectives that he was directed in the scheme by another individual who had recruited and paid him.
Marfo and Davis learned of Callaway's arrest.  From December 29, 2010 through April 11, 2011, Marfo, Davis and Byrd met several times to discuss murdering Callaway to prevent him from providing information about the bank fraud scheme.  Witnesses testified that Marfo offered to commit the murder himself, but later Davis and Marfo decided to pay Byrd to commit the murder.

Davis met with Callaway upon his pre-trial release, and in January 2011, referred him to a Baltimore County attorney to represent Callaway.  In March 2011, a U.S. Postal Inspector informed Callaway's attorney that federal law enforcement officers wanted to interview Callaway about the bank fraud scheme.  On April 5, 2011, an Assistant U.S. Attorney also advised Callaway's attorney that federal law enforcement officers wished to interview Callaway about the fraud scheme and the identity of other participants.  That same day, Callaway's attorney told Davis about the requested interview of Callaway.
Between April 5 and April 11, 2011, Davis exchanged numerous calls with Byrd to arrange the murder, and called Callaway 68 times.  Marfo, Davis and Byrd also met shortly before the murder. Davis directed Callaway to meet Bryd on April 11, 2011, on the 1700 block of Crystal Avenue in Baltimore.  Byrd used a 10mm semi-automatic handgun to kill Callaway as he sat in the driver's seat of a car parked on Crystal Avenue.  Davis met with Bryd shortly after the murder, then drove to Marfo's residence to inform him that the murder had been committed.  Davis subsequently paid Byrd $2,000 for Callaway's murder. According to testimony at Marfo's trial, Marfo contributed part of the payment from his share of the fraud scheme proceeds.
 Tavon Dameon Davis, age 25, and Frank Marfo, age 28, both of Baltimore, pleaded guilty and were convicted by a federal jury, respectively, for their roles in the murder.  Marfo is scheduled to be sentenced on November 9, 2012, and Davis is expected to be sentenced later this year.  
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the ATF, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Baltimore County Police Department and the Baltimore City Police Department for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys John F. Purcell and Joshua Kaul, who prosecuted the case.

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