The travails of the small businessman

It's not easy running a business out of your home these days. Just ask Michael "Muscle Mike" Williams.

For the past year, the wholesaler had been forced to deal with suppliers who were either out of the products he needed or shipped him inferior goods - which he tried to offload onto his customers, who promptly noticed and complained. A relative he brought into the business proved to be untrustworthy; he even began to suspect he was to blame for an internal theft. And it turned out one of his workers had turned whistleblower and was talking to the feds.

At least he had the foresight to set up a limited liability corporation to try to protect his personal assets. Unfortunately for Williams, though, the LLC didn't help him last week, when he was arrested on charges he ran a large-scale and wholesale cocaine operation that bought cocaine from some dealers in the area, then cut it and re-sold it to other dealers across Dorchester, Mattapan and Jamaica Plain. In addition to the arrests, the government moved to seize Williams's property - which includes two triple deckers on Greenwood Street and five cars. Some 18 other people were also arrested, including his cousin.

In an affidavit filed in US District Court, Martin O'Malley, a former Boston police detective now working for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, details 14 months of surveillance of the Williams operation (read the 107-page affidavit for yourself).

Through phone taps, undercover observation and a secret camera mounted on a utility pole outside one of the two triple deckers the gun-toting Williams owned on Greenwood Street, investigators were able to put together what looks like a detailed description of a homegrown business - just not one that would be applying for any SBA loans. Separately, federal and local officials blame Williams and his organization for a spate of shootings and murders last year.

Although investigators say Williams has been dealing cocaine for 20 years, the investigation described by O'Malley began in July, 2009, when somebody working for Williams as a cocaine "cook" turning cocaine into crack approached the DEA and said he or she (the affidavit is careful to not describe the person's gender) was tired of the devastation Williams's business had caused both the person's family and the neighborhood (although not tired enough to stop his or her own dealing; the feds ultimately dropped the person from an active role in the investigation because of this).

The affidavit charges that among Williams's employees was his cousin, Donald "Ducky" Williams of Brenton Street. Ducky worked for Williams as another crack cook at 136 Greenwood St., a triple decker where the third floor had been converted into a cocaine "kitchen" and next door to another Williams triple decker, at 132 Greenwood, that the affidavit says he used for storing cocaine. But Muscle Mike had plans for Ducky - he began to step back from direct involvement in the business and let Ducky handle day-to-day operations. In the meantime, he continued to sell Ducky small amounts of cocaine that he in turn resold at retail on Greenwood Street.

After awhile, however, Muscle Mike began to suspect Ducky was not on the up and up. In December, 2009, a kilo of cocaine sitting in the back yard at 136 Greenwod disappeared. Mike grew more and more conviced Ducky had something to do with it. Four months after the theft, Muscle Mike decreed: No more small-time dealing in the Greenwood Street area. To reinforce the point, Williams stopped selling the retail amounts of cocaine to his cousin. As Ducky explained to another dealer, according to the affidavit: "Nigga ain't fucking with nobody. Even niggas who don't owe him cash. We're officially on our ass."

Ducky, though, apparently decided to risk crossing his cousin, found other sources for cocaine and kept selling eightballs - 3.5-gram packages of coke. Of course, with the coke harder to get, he had to raise his prices - from $150 to $165. Scarcity, he told buyers.

Muscle Mike found out about the sales, and on May 13, the two Williams cousins had it out. The affidavit reports the two met around 3:25 p.m. on the back deck of 136 Greenwood. Based on the video from the surveillance hidden on a utility pole, "the meeting was contentious, accompanied by lots of finger pointing and agitated movements by the participants" and lasted for almost 2 1/2 hours. Bottom line: Muscle Mike reiterated his "stop work order" in the Greenwood area.

Meanwhile, Williams was facing other problems in his business. His supply was tightening and the stuff he got was not always of the quality he expected.

On June 8, the affidavit says, agents listened in as a customer tried to order two kilos of cocaine, but had to settle for just one because that was all Williams had on hand at the moment. A couple weeks later, according to the affidavit, Williams had to field a complaint from another buyer, Frank Copeland, who told him his customers were complaining about the quality of some crack Williams had sold him:

Copeland: Yeah, 'cuz it's different man. It ain't, it ain't the same man.

Williams: What's the deal? What's the difference with it?

Copeland: I don't know. It ain't doin' up right. It's, it's you know. And today, I done it all, all the way down to the gristle and it still got a couple of complaints. ...

Williams: Oh, really? I don't know man, I don't know, that's the only one I got left at this moment, though.

In turn, investigators say, one of Williams' suppliers, Dwayne Person, was having troubles of his own maintaining an adequate supply. The affidavit recounts what it says was a phone call between Person and his supplier, Miguel Angel Nouel of Jamaica Plain. When Nouel said he'd tried to get through to Person several times, but couldn't, Person said it was because people were calling him "like crazy" to try to rustle up some coke. Person, the affidavit continues, then mused, "you got to take the bitter with the sweet and the sweet with the bitter."

Williams stepped into the world of legitimate business on Nov. 19, 2009, when he submitted incorporation papers to the state for 132 Greenwood LLC, whose stated purpose was: "TO INVEST IN AND MANAGE THE OPERATIONS OF REAL ESTATE AND TO ENGAGE IN ANY OTHER LAWFUL ACTIVITY."

In November of this year, though, the family business began to unravel. On Nov. 10, Boston Police and DEA agents arrested Person on Wyman Street in Jamaica Plain, not long, the affidavit says, after agents watched him buy five kilos of cocaine from Nouel. Earlier this week, Williams and the 17 other people the feds charge were his workers, suppliers or customers were also arrested. All face sentences of ten years to life if convicted.