Accused ringleader in kidnap plot is Bloods gang member
Posted April 11, 2014
Updated April 12, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — The inmate accused of masterminding the abduction of a Wake Forest man to get back at the prosecutor who put him behind bars is a high-ranking member of the notorious Bloods street gang, according to court documents.
Frank Janssen, 63, was kidnapped from his home last Saturday morning, and an FBI Hostage Rescue Team raided an apartment in Atlanta late Wednesday to rescue him and take his captors into custody.
Kelvin Melton, 49, who is serving a life sentence at Polk Correctional Institution in Butner, orchestrated the kidnapping from his prison cell, FBI investigators said Thursday. Janssen's daughter, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Colleen Janssen, won a conviction against Melton in October 2012.
Court records show the case involved a plan to kill a Raleigh man who was dating Melton's ex-girlfriend. A co-defendant told police that Melton ordered him in September 2011 to go from New York to Raleigh to carry out the killing.
At the time, Melton was incarcerated in New York, but he was the highest-ranking member of the Bloods in New York and still was able to carry out the gang's business from behind bars, court records state. The 19-year-old gunman told police that he followed Melton's orders because he feared for his own life and the lives of his loved ones if he didn't.
The target in the plot was shot in the head and hand but survived.
A Wake County jury acquitted Melton of attempted murder and criminal conspiracy, but he was found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and received a life sentence as a violent habitual felon.
Melton's criminal record dates to 1979 and includes convictions in New York for robbery and manslaughter.
Investigators allege that, much like the 2011 case, Melton was able to order Frank Janssen's abduction from behind bars and even assisted in carrying out the plot by using a cellphone he was able to obtain in prison to send instructions to the kidnappers via text message and send threatening texts to Janssen's family.
The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys is now calling for stiffer penalties for any who smuggles a cell phone to an inmate.
Texts from a different cellphone included a photo of Janssen tied up and seated in a chair and statements to his wife that he would be sent back to the family in six boxes and that other family members would be kidnapped and tortured if she contacted police.
Suburban Atlanta homes raided
Investigators monitored the communications from Melton's phone, which led them to the Atlanta apartment. The group is also pushing to expand the law that protects law enforcement and prosecutors, to include family members.
Five people – Jenna Paulin Martin, 21, Tiana Maynard, 20, Jevante Price, 20, Michael Montreal Gooden, 21, and Clifton James Roberts, 29 – were arrested in the raid and charged with federal kidnapping charges. All five remain in an Atlanta-area jail, pending extradition to North Carolina.
Federal authorities charged Melton on Friday with conspiracy to kidnap.
About 90 minutes before the raid, FBI agents swooped in on a neighborhood in suburban Cobb County, where Maynard lives with her children.
"I come from New York City. I've seen raids. I've never seen anything like that. That was more military than anything else," neighbor Reggie Smith said Friday. "Our grandchildren were terrified (by) that kind of police presence."
Another neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said Maynard was terrified of Melton and did whatever he demanded. A friend of Maynard's let her move in about a month ago, the neighbor said.
Although several adults were brought out of the home in handcuffs, no one was charged. Maynard's children were taken into protective custody.
NC prisons battle contraband phones
When authorities tried to confiscate Melton's phone as part of the investigation, they said he blocked them from entering his cell and tried to smash the phone.
North Carolina Department of Public Safety officials are investigating how Melton obtained the phone. Cellphone possession by an inmate has been a crime in the state since 2009.
Last year, the Division of Adult Correction seized 747 cellphones in state prisons. Another 166 have been found so far this year.
"It is a problem, and we continue to combat it," said George Solomon, director of prisons. "We will use every resource at our fingertips to do that."
Solomon said some phones are brought in by corrections officers who have accepted bribes, while others are hidden in soccer balls and other athletic equipment that are tossed over prison fences from the outside when no one is looking.
The division has been deploying technology to detect contraband phones more easily, including dogs trained to sniff out the devices and mobile metal detection towers. Also, prison staff now are required to use clear bags if they bring anything to work.
"The safety of our staff is impacted. The facilities are impacted," Solomon said.
Melton had already been cited for cellphone possession during his time at Polk Correctional, according to state records. Possession of a weapon and lock tampering were also among his six listed infractions.
The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys called Friday for increased penalties for anyone convicted of providing cellphones to prison inmates – it's currently a misdemeanor offense – as well as stiffer sanctions on any inmate caught with a phone.
The district attorneys group also lobbied for expanding the state law that allows judges to impose longer sentences on anyone who committed a crime against a law enforcement officer or prosecutor so that the law also includes members of an officer's or prosecutor's family.
“Frank Janssen was allegedly targeted simply because a prosecutor did her job to keep the community safe,” Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr., president of state group, said in a statement. “This is a sobering reminder that nearly 700 prosecutors confront evil every day in courtrooms across North Carolina.”
Janssen was reunited with his family Thursday, and authorities said he seemed to be in good condition. The family has asked for privacy.