Southwest Detroit drug lord Anthony (Scarface Tony) Viramontez, the Motor City’s most notorious Hispanic crime boss of the past three decades, worked in tandem pushing narcotics and trying to kill people with the infamous Highwaymen Motorcycle Club. Viramontez, 47, was convicted for racketeering and drugs in 2008 and sentenced to 15 years behind bars. He’s in a federal correctional institute in McKean, Pennsylvania and won’t be eligible for release until 2021.

According to court documents, Viramontez and his Latin Counts street gang were closely connected to former Highwaymen leaders Joseph (Little Joe) Whiting and Philip (Jocko) McDonald and Viramontez and Whiting conspired to murder another biker who they suspected correctly had been feeding information to the federal government. The 63-year old Little Joe Whiting used to be the Highwaymen’s national president and per news reports from just last week, is currently trying to mount an appeal from his prison cell, where he is serving a 30-year sentence for racketeering himself. Today, Jocko McDonald, the one-time Highwaymen Downriver Detroit chapter president and the club’s liaison to the Latin Counts, lives under as assumed identity in the Witness Protection Program.

Located in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge and on the shores of the American-Canadian border, Southwest Detroit is a primarily Hispanic neighborhood, but it’s also home to the mothership chapter of the Highwaymen and where the club was founded in 1954. Scarface Tony Viramontez, nicknamed for a gash on the right side of his face sustained when he got shot in the chin at the age of 15 while living in Chicago, is sometimes also referred to as “Big Chocolate.” In 1988, upon turning 18, Viramontez, already a veteran of the Windy City street gang circuit, moved to Motown and started a Detroit faction of the Latin Counts, absorbing the Bagley Boys Gang and its turf.

Within a very short period of time, Viramontez became well-known in law enforcement, community activist and media circles for all the wrong reasons. He did a prison stint in the 1990s for weapons violations and beating a rival with a brick. On December 23, 1990, his little brother Octavius (aka “Bootis”) was murdered in a drive-by shooting.

Faced with a mountain of negative news clippings, Scarface Tony Viramontez did an Interview with The Detroit Free Press, admitting he was “banned from Chicago,” for his reputation, but wanting to let the public know that he loved his new home of Detroit and that street-gang activity was strictly in his past.

“I don’t want to be known as a so-called gang leader and I would appreciate if the police, press, prosecutors, lawyers and community leaders would stop using my name for their own needs (and agendas),” he told Free Press scribe Jack Kresnak.

Viramontez’s Latin Counts drug empire got dismantled as a result of a federal criminal inquiry into the Highwaymen jumpstarted in 2004 with the flipping of local biker politician William (Billy Wadd) Smith and recent-Highwaymen inductee Doug (Doc) Burnett. Both volunteered their cooperation prior to any arrest. Smith, the Westside Detroit chapter boss of the Devil’s Diciples, owned The Copa Lounge, a de-facto “no man’s land,” and frequent hangout for a number of area bike gangs which he let the feds wire for sound. Burnett worked directly for Jocko McDonald and ran interference on his behalf with the Latin Counts, middling drug transactions.

When Burnett, only weeks from being “patched-in” to the Highwaymen, approached the FBI and offered up his help to bring down his new brothers in the club, he mentioned his role as a club conduit to Viramontez and the Latin Counts in his debriefing. Per federal records and court filings, the government enticed Burnett with the promise of a $25,000 bonus if he aided authorities in building cases against both the Highwaymen and Scarface Tony.

By late in the summer of 2006, Viramontez knew Burnett was an informant. He didn’t know his co-defendant Jocko McDonald was too though. Conversations discussing locating and killing Burnett between Viramontez and McDonald and Viramontez and Little Joe Whiting were intercepted on a wire in August 2006.

“He has to go, he can’t make it to my trial,” Scarface Tony told McDonald. “I’d do it right now, but I don’t want to start a war (between the Latin Counts and the Highwaymen)…..ask Joe (Whiting) what he wants to do about this.”

Whiting’s answer was decisive.

“Whoever finds him, he needs to go,” he said.

His only instruction if Scarface Tony and his crew got to him first: make sure he isn’t wearing his Highwaymen colors, as to avoid bad blood between the two groups.

Neither succeeded. Burnett testified against both Viramontez and the Highwaymen. Like his former mentor in the club Jocko McDonald, Burnett resides in the Witness Protection Program today.

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