By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
Sex, drugs and 60 years in prison.
Christopher Lynn LeBlue lived his life by manipulating people, bank accounts and drug traffickers. And after four prior convictions for low-level felonies of check forgery, burglary and drug possession, LeBlue's pattern of criminal behavior finally caught up to him.
Last Thursday, a Bell County jury sentenced the "check man" of Killeen to 60 years in prison for engaging in organized criminal activity.
After three days of testimony, it took just 30 minutes for the jury to return with a guilty verdict on the charge of organized crime.
It took the jury 45 minutes to return with a punishment of 60 years.
In her opening statement to the jury April 1, Assistant District Attorney Jean Hartley laid out the scope of LeBlue's operations in which he coordinated the actions of his "team."
"What you'll hear about is initially, a forgery, the last in a series of crimes," Hartley said. "This forgery happened at the First National Bank in Killeen. They were in a stolen car, trying to pass a check (from other individuals illegally). Unlucky for them, they recognized him. ... They alerted the police. They find a box, IDs, checks, withdrawal slips."
LeBlue coordinated his team of crackheads, prostitutes and other degenerates to commit a high volume of low-tech crimes for one purpose, as recovering crack addict Lacey Higgins testified on the trial's first day.
"Get more money so we could get more crack," Higgins said.
Killeen Police Detective Larry Hurry served as the department's lead investigator in the case. Hurry's file on LeBlue is a 4-inch thick binder chronicling Hurry's investigation of LeBlue's activities during the first five months of 2007.
According to testimony, LeBlue's team consisted of a rotating ring of crack users. While many of the women came and went from the Killeen home of Coyette Moss, LeBlue had a consistent group of people he trusted. This inner circle included Christina Mastrapietro, Warren Singer, Coyette Moss, Ginger Ward, Linda Perry-Rogers, Victor Moore and Eddie Colon, and acted upon the instructions of LeBlue.
All have recently been convicted of check forgery, burglary of a building or drug possession. The men committed burglaries of small businesses in January, February and March of 2007 in a tactic they referred to on the stand as "smash-and-grabs."
Hurry said it's impossible to know how many burglaries the group committed. He has conclusive evidence linking 13 to one or more members of the group, but he estimates the actual number during those few months was at least double that. Those burglaries cost an estimated $46,000.
It wasn't until police compromised this inner circle that they finally caught LeBlue in the act on April 21 of last year. Without them, LeBlue was forced to take part in the forgeries, which they often did five or six times per day, Higgins testified.
Hurry said that the group would pair off and go to Killeen parking lots packed with cars, casually looking for any exposed items of value left inside. Odds dictated that they would find several vehicles with a purse, an open checkbook, a wallet, exposed in plain sight. The individual crimes were unremarkable and did not draw a great deal of attention.
Hurry said everything came back to LeBlue. It was not uncommon for 12 to 16 twitching crack users to gather at the home at any one time, most of them women. He maintained a sexual relationship with many of them, often more than one at a time. In turn, LeBlue would provide them with enough crack to ease their fix.
Several of these women testified during the week that when the burglars returned with their bounty of IDs, LeBlue would gather driver's licenses of women with matching checkbooks together. He would then line the available crackhead females in a row and pick those who most matched the victim's picture. He coached them on how to cash checks at banks in a convincing way. Often, such as in the April 21 incident, the woman would not attempt to cash the check completely. They often wrote a check for several hundred dollars and attempted to deposit part of it to draw less suspicion.
"He was real big into writing things into the memo line," Hartley said. "Most of the forgeries we linked back to him had 'water bill' or 'rent payment' written in the memo."
Hartley and Hurry both said LeBlue acted in a very hands-off way, distancing himself from each act by not being an active participant. They said that proved to be one of the major obstacles in building the case against him.
While the men were uncooperative for the most part, the women, particularly the ones LeBlue had ceased sexual contact with, cooperated with investigators. They provided written statements and testified during the trial all week.
After the trial, Hartley said the scope of the operation, while conducted by a house full of crackheads, was well-coordinated and efficient. And it was extensive.
"I had 50 different incidents that were tied in some way to Chris LeBlue," Hartley said. "I didn't get into most of it because sometimes you can give the jury too much information."
Hartley said she believed the jury looked at LeBlue's prior convictions, the short intervals separating his jail sentences, and saw that as evidence of a lifestyle criminal, one who will always be working against society's rules.
"Sometimes, it was only a matter of three or four months before he was in jail for the next one," Hartley said. "I'm very pleased with the jury's decision. It was clear that when he gets out of jail, he's going to do it again."
While burglaries, check forgeries and crack use are common crimes in Killeen, she believes the coordinated style of LeBlue is uncommon.
"He was kind of unique, I think," Hartley said. "There are a lot of people who use drugs who forge checks. But he was just able to connect to the right people. I don't get the impression there are a lot of Chris LeBlues out there; there are a lot of amateurs. He was just very good at it. He was a very smart guy. He got quite a bit of money before we were able to build the engaging (in organized crime) case against him."
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7568