Screenshot taken from https://www.gatewaymacon.org/top-5-lists/top-5-surprising-facts-5.cms
For those of you who don’t believe in the existence of the Dixie Mafia consider this. Three full years before the RICO act was used in New York to take down the Italian Mafia, it was used in Georgia to take down Dixie Mafia Kingpin John “J.C.” Hawkins.
Everyone has heard how the U.S. Attorney’s office used the RICO act to attack the Italian Mafia and ultimately take it down. Although it still exists to this day, the Mafia isn’t nearly as powerful as it was back in the early 1970s. Even Wikipedia claims the RICO act was first used in 1979 to take down the Italians.
The screenshot is taken from Wikipedia
While diving deeper into my research of the Dixie Mafia, I found a startling truth. The RICO Act wasn’t used first on the Italians. It was used against a Dixie Mafia Kingpin named J.C. Hawkins out of Georgia three full years before the highly-publicized case in New York. Although the Dixie Mafia doesn’t have the structure and organization of the famous Italian crew, this grassroots criminal enterprise spans the southern states like weeds in a garden.
The term “Dixie Mafia” was coined in the 1960s by Mississippi State Police investigator, Rex Armistead. He hoped it would draw the attention of police and the media to the connections between the criminal factions. For decades everyone argued over the existence of the Italian mafia before it became indisputable. Now the same pattern is happening about the Dixie Mafia. While they have been called everything from the Cornbread La Cosa Nostra to the Hillbilly Mob, the fact that there is a criminal organization in the south should be indisputable. Why are people still arguing over this point? I contend Hollywood glamorized the Italian organization and they haven’t touched the southern counterpart.
More about the first RICO indictment:
The RICO indictment case out of Macon, GA started with a rock group called the Allman Brothers band.
Photo courtesy of Capricorn Records – itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39713595
They were called the “Godfathers of Southern Rock,” but now drug dealers with ties to the Georgia faction of the Dixie Mafia will destroy what’s left of the band.
The Allman Brothers Band had reached the lofty heights of stardom by 1976, but those heights were hard to maintain with ties to Georgia’s faction of the Dixie Mafia. Drugs, band member disputes, lavish living, and one giant push by law enforcement spelled the end of the famous rock group.
The band that would be later known for hits like Ramblin Man and Midnight Rider was formed by two brothers Gregg and Duane in 1969. The next seven years would be plagued with trouble, but they would finally scratch their way to the top. Things started falling apart, however, when the eldest brother Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971. The band somehow kept it together and seemed stronger than ever, but it wouldn’t last long.
Gregg Allman’s former bodyguard and now road manager, John “Scooter” Herring was allegedly supplying the band and others with narcotics. His activities and his ties to Dixie Mafia Kingpin J. C. Hawkins had come under scrutiny by law enforcement. Scooter’s supplier was a pharmacist Joey Fuchs. At one point Fuchs found his pharmacy stock so obviously low, that he staged a robbery to cover the drugs he had stolen and sold to Herring.
Scooter Herring and Joey Fuchs were arrested and indicted on May 30, 1976. Witnesses were called in from around the music industry including Gregg Allman. Everyone in the band refused to “rat out” their friend, but Allman facing charges of his own agreed to testify against his former manager. This action was the final straw that broke up the group.
The feds were happy to take down Fuchs and Herring, but their main target was the big boss J.C. Hawkins. They would get their chance in a much-publicized RICO trial in July 1976. Hawkins and the crew were convicted of several racketeering charges, drug charges and much more. During the trial, the rockstar Gregg Allman had to be under heavy guard. Hawkins, who had a history of taking out witnesses, had put a price on Allman’s head. $100,000 was a lot of money back in 1976, and that’s what the kingpin was willing to pay if someone took out Allman.
Scooter Herring was convicted of five drug charges and sentenced to 75 years in prison. Herring who had also been a former bodyguard for J.C. Hawkins was now behind bars. He refused to snitch on anyone, but Fuchs and Allman didn’t share his sentiment. Viewing Allman’s testimony as an act of betrayal, the band officially broke up. They would reunite on a few occasions over the next few decades, but they would never achieve the same level of success as their first run in the early 1970s.
An appeals court later overturned Herring’s conviction. He would face another trial in 1979 where he would plead guilty to lesser charges and receive five years. Eventually, Scooter received a presidential pardon from Jimmy Carter, and he ended up serving only three years. Many believed he took the rap for Allman, but there wasn’t any proof. Several southern rock groups performed charity concerts and raised the money to foot Scooter’s legal bill. Scooter went on working in the music industry and was beloved by all who knew him. No one will ever know if the allegations were true or false, but Herring spent the rest of his life on the fringes of Rock and Roll as a manager for different bands.
Gregg Allman wrote a book titled My Cross to Bear in later in life. He says he was told by Scooter to pin everything on the big guy. Of course, there is no way to verify this claim. Was the ex-bodyguard still trying to protect the drug-addled celebrity, or was he actually guilty? Who knows? Whatever the case may be, the feds ended up taking down their man Hawkins with the first RICO trial.
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This week’s Recommended Reading:
For those who like to read gritty crime novels, check out the latest from my friend and fellow writer, Wayne Clingman.
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