Fort was critical in establishing several important gang entities, including the Blackstone Rangers, the Black P. Stone Nation (a collection of local affiliated "stone" gangs), the People Nation (a national cartel of gangs including the BPSN as well as other lage organizations including the Vice Lords), and the El Rukns (a religiously-motivated gang). While the Italian mob in Chicago is today a mere shell of its former self, Fort's gangs, with the possible exception of the Rukns -- whose influence is nevertheless still felt -- are going strong.
It is not uncommon for gang members to draw their family into a criminal organization. Without the ability to enforce employment contracts through the court system the way legal businesses do, trust becomes a next-best substitute for formal contracts in underground industries. Ethnicity and common background engender some level of trust -- hence the fact that most gangs are composed of members of the same race or ethnicity -- but family ties are even stronger. Shirking and disloyalty to the gang in such cases thus means turning one's back on loved ones. In addition, family members of prominent criminals may face discrimination in the labor market (would you think twice before hiring someone named "Gotti"?), so non-gang opportunities become relatively scarce.
The Fort family exemplifies the role relatives play within a gang. Jeff Fort had seven brothers and three sisters, most of which are known to have been active in his criminal enterprise. He is believed to have fathered at least seven children, and two of these rose to leadership positions in the gang. In addition, nephews and even grandchildren have also been connected with criminal activity.
- Andrew Fort (born c. 1959)
(Pictured: Andrew Fort, being arrested for marijuana possession in 1979 at the El Rukn Temple)
- Bennie Fort (born c. 1949)
Active in the Blackstone Rangers and BPSN during the 1960s and 1970s. Served two years in prison between 1968 and 1970 for aggravated battery. After release, rejoined gang and was among top leadership during Jeff Fort's first prison sentence, 1972-76. He apparently continued to be active in the El Rukns during the 1980s, and in 1982 was involved in a physical altercation with a woman in a dispute over ownership of a television set. The woman called police, and while accusing Bennie Fort of aggravated battery, also fingered him as the killer in a murder a few months before, a bar fight that ended in the death of Darryl Poindexter. Fort went on trial for the slaying, but after some witness intimidation by his brothers Eugene and Johnny Lee (see below), was acquitted. He did serve two years in prison for the woman's battery, however.
Televisions were bad news for Bennie Fort. In June 1988, a fellow El Rukn, Perry Squire, sold a broken TV to Fort for $40. Fort managed to repair it, and when Squire saw his broken set working again, he insisted it be returned to him. Fort refused, but a few days later, the television was stolen, and Fort confronted Squire about it. An altercation ensued, during which Squire stabbed Bennie Fort to death.
- Eugene Fort (born c. 1951)
A low-level enforcer in the Rukns. Along with Johnny Lee Fort, he was involved in intimidating witnesses during Bennie Fort's 1983 murder trial. On July 14, 1983, the day after police arrested Bennie Fort, Eugene and Johnny Lee Fort allegedly broke into the home of the woman who had accused him of the killing and threatened to kill her.
- James Fort (born c. 1962)
Drug dealer in the Rukns. Convicted of crack cocaine distribution and imprisoned in 1994.
- Johnny Lee Fort (born c. 1947)
The oldest of the brothers and the namesake of his father. Despite age, does not appear to have held high office in the gang, though together with Eugene Fort, was involved in intimidation of witnesses in Bennie Fort's 1983 murder trial (see above).
- Lawrence Fort (born c. 1960)
Ran one of the El Rukns' ancillary businesses in the 1980s, a security firm known as Security Maintenance Services, Ltd. The firm was unlicensed, and Fort was arrested as part of a police sting operation at McCormick Place. Pled guilty in the case to operating a security firm without a license, and carrying an illegal firearm.
- Pee Wee Fort (born ?)
Active in El Ruks during 1980s. In 1985, Yonava Eason and two girlfriends were walking down a street when they saw Andrew Fort (above) and David Carter, both El Rukns, open fire on Robert "Dog" Johnson. Eason picked Carter's photo from a lineup, but when asked to testify in court, recanted her identification. Andrew Fort was convicted, but without Eason's testimony, Carter went free. Later, in 1991, Eason admitted she had changed her testimony after being threatened out of court by Pee Wee Fort, who told her she "better not testify". "My family was more important to me than telling the truth in that courtroom that day," she said.Carter was convicted of murder, but eventually had his sentence reduced to 8-1/2 years on narcotics distribution charges, based on prosecutorial misbehavior. Prosecutors in the case had allowed gang snitches to use drugs, liquor, and to have sex with their wives and girlfriends while under state guard.
- Merriam Rice (neé Fort) (born ?)
No known gang activities in Chicago. Today is an anti-gang activist, working alongside former Gangster Disciples leader K.G. Wilson in inner-city Minneapolis, who is involved in street preaching and anti-violence community organizing. See this article for details. The Disciples are the chief Chicago rivals of the BPSN, and form the core of the "Folk Nation", a gang cartel organization rival to Fort's "People Nation"; hence, Rice's work with Wilson is significant. Wilson said,
I heard Jeff Fort had a sister here. I introduced myself and told her to come out with me. She did, and she's been with me ever since. Here I am, an ex-chief of the Black Gangster Disciples, and God gave me the sister of Jeff Fort. I think that allows us to show people that this gang thing is garbage.
[Thanks to Otto Sotnak for the tip about Merriam Rice, which inspired this post.]
- Antonio Fort (born c. 1966) (also known as "Prince Akeem")
Believed to have been among top Chicago-based leadership of the El Rukns during the 1980s (Jeff Fort commanded the gang from prison in Beaumont, Texas, for most of the period), Antonio Fort was the target of the arrest warrant police used to infiltrate and eventually demolish the El Rukn Grand Major Temple and mosque headquarters on 39th and Drexel in 1989. Antonio Fort was apparently not fully loyal to the gang (possibly under the influence of a substance abuse problem), leading Jeff Fort to direct "drummings" [beatings] of his own son by fellow gang members as punishment on at least two occasions.In the early 1990s, Antonio Fort is believed to have led a large Stones set the South Shore neighborhood (colloquially known as "Terror Town" during the gang's reign). Between 1992 and 1996, he served a prison sentence for conspiracy to purchase cocaine in Evanston. His release may have created a power struggle in the gang; in any case, his body washed up on the shore of Wolf Lake, separating Illinois and Indiana, in March, 1997.
- Watkeeta Valenzuela Fort (born c. 1970) (also known as "Prince Watkeeta")
In the power vacuum left after the government takedown of the Rukns in the late 1980s, Valenzuela came to power, leading one of the major Stones sets which controlled the Englewood neighborhood, with headquarters at 54th St. and Bishop St. (pictured at the top of this post). Valenzuela led the Stones in violent clashes with the Gangster Disciples gang, which also tried to move in on Rukn territory on the South Side during the early 1990s. In March, 1997, he pled guilty to running a cocaine trafficking operation, telling the court "I was born into this. I had no other choice."Valenzuela is believed to have remained the closest of his siblings to father Jeff Fort, and to have incorporated much of the quasi-Islamic religious aspects of the Rukns in the 1990s Stones sets. His followers called themselves "Moes", a reference to the "Moorish Science" tenants of the Rukns. That name is still common among some factions.
- Eugene Fort, nephew and son of Eugene Fort, brother (born c. 1972)
Active in Minneapolis crack trade during the early 1990s. Was chief suspect in 1990 murder of 11-year old boy Marcus Potts, who was at home alone while his house was being burglarized. A trail of footprints in the snow from the boy's home led police back to Eugene Fort's house, where traces of the boy's blood were found. However, the evidence was not strong enough to convict in court, and so the case was not brought to trial for 15 years, when DNA testing technology had advanced to the point where the blood could be more authoritatively matched. Eugene Fort was convicted of murder in 2007, though a new trial was briefly considered in 2007 based on the apparent jailhouse confession of his cousin Paul Rice. However, Fort's conviction was upheld.
- Paul Rice, nephew and son of Merriam Rice, sister (born ?)
After the conviction of his cousin Eugene Fort in the murder of an 11-year old boy, Rice supposedly bragged to jail inmates that he had "killed a little boy" on at least two occasions. On this basis, Eugene Fort received a hearing to determine whether a new trial was warranted, though Fort's conviction was subsequently upheld.
- Antonio Fort, grandson and son of Antonio Fort, son (born c. 1987) (also known as "Peanut")
Allegedly involved in 2002 mob beating that made national news. Jack Moore and Anthony Stuckey were driving drunk and high through the Oakland neighborhood, and crashed their van into a house on Lake Park Ave., where three young women were sitting. The crash injured the women, killing one. A crowd of men who were nearby at the time of the wreck dragged Moore and Stuckey out of the van and beat them to death on the street. A police officer who arrived on the scene to break up the violence claimed that Antonio was a leader of the vigilante mob, and had personally attacked Moore and Stuckey.At trial in 2003, Antonio Fort testified that he arrived on the scene after the violence had already begun, and that he left quickly when he heard his mother calling him. Fort was acquitted. Reports indicate he is not closely associated with the Stones.