Cover image for Sex Money Murder : a story of crack, blood, and betrayal / Jonathan Green.
Sex Money Murder : a story of crack, blood, and betrayal / Jonathan Green.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2018]

Physical Description:
x, 413 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
"$MM"-- Dust jacket.
Act I. Soundview: the genesis of violence -- Prologue: The roof -- Li'l Gunbuster -- Do not yield to evil -- Hit a killer, be a killer -- The ledger of death -- The kids from Cozy Corner -- The birth of Sugar shaft -- Kidnapped: blood begets blood -- Act II. The rise of Sex Money Murder -- Gold shield #1944 -- Sex Money Murder -- Coma -- Pipelines of the game -- Money bath -- Justice -- the murder game -- Gimme the loot -- Blood -- Nasty boys -- Act III. Ultraviolence: the fall of Sex Money Murder -- The fist -- The office -- Thanksgiving -- "Make it reign" -- Bangin' for their rats -- Myth's end -- Dropping the flag -- 5K -- Exile -- Epilogue: "The streets don't love you"
A portrait of the violent drug wars of the Bronx in the late 1980s and early 1990s documents the surge of crack cocaine's popularity and the murderous territory disputes among its dealers, tracing the rise and fall of notorious gang Sex Money Murder.
Corporate Subject:


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
364.1066097471 GRE Book Adult General Collection

On Order



In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Bronx had one of the highest per capita murder rates in the country. The use of crack cocaine surged, replacing heroin as the high of choice. Drug dealers claimed territory through intimidation and murder, and families found themselves fractured by crime and incarceration. Chronicling the rise and fall of Sex Money Murder, one of the most notorious gangs of its era, reporter Jonathan Green creates a visceral and devastating portrait of a New York City borough, and the dedicated detectives and prosecutors struggling to stop the tide of violence.The setting is Soundview, one of the city's most dangerous projects, where we encounter the gangsters Suge and Pipe, and the charismatic leader of Sex Money Murder, Pistol Pete. We also meet the dedicated policemen, like rookie housing cop Pete Forcelli and seasoned Detective John O'Malley, risking their lives to make a difference. It's a world in which dealers get their hands dirty simply by counting the hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash they make on a monthly basis, watch Scarface while smoking spliffs between shootings, and coolly assassinate rivals during a neighborhood football game; and where nothing is more important than preserving your honor and expanding your domain--with force. Breaking up the gang is a legal feat, but their murderous reputation and the expansion of their drug operation across state lines means that Sex Money Murder draws the attention of the Feds--the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms--and the persevering federal prosecutors Liz Glazer and Nicole LaBarbera, who will use RICO (the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) to go after the drug crews.Drawing on years of research and extraordinary access to gang leaders, law enforcement, and federal prosecutors, Green delivers an epic character-driven narrative and an engrossing work of gritty urban reportage. Magisterial in its scope, Sex Money Murder offers a unique perspective on the violence raging in modern-day America and the battle to end it.

Author Notes

Jonathan Green is a broadcaster and journalist who has been appointed editor of the literary journal Meanjin from 1 July.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

New York Review of Books Review

all those tv shows and podcasts have it wrong: the truer the crime, the more tedious. That's because the lion's share of American murders fit a predictable template. Whether the setting is the Bronx in the 1980s, South Central Los Angeles in the 1990s, Oakland or any number of midsize cities today, one finds the same broken gold chains, self-published books and shabby mortuaries; the same candle vigils and Russian roulette; the same petty slights, retaliation, snitching taboos and grisly walk-up executions. More is the challenge, then, for the serious chronicler of American violence. Jonathan Green takes a head-on approach in "Sex Money Murder," his detailed account of a federal takedown of a Bronx drug-trafficking crew in the heyday of crack cocaine. Seeking to bridge two familiar forms - the police procedural and the gang-redemption memoir - Green tracks cops and killers by turns as events draw them together. "Pipe" is an 11-year-old gang recruit living in the Soundview Houses of the Bronx in the 1980s. Pete, an older teenager, is his friend and mentor, from a middleclass family but close enough to the crack maelstrom that he easily crosses over. The two youths and their crew - Sex Money Murder or "SMM" - set out to build a profitable drug operation in Soundview, eventually spreading the franchise to other states and aligning with the Bloods. At its height, the crew forms a legal corporation, brazenly named SMMC Inc., to launder proceeds. Meanwhile, a New York police officer named John O'Malley, also a Bronx native, becomes a homicide detective. He sees the work as fruitless in an era when unseen black victims died by the thousands in unsolved murders. O'Malley eventually becomes a United States attorney's investigator, allowing him to deploy the formidable resources of the feds against surging gang violence and the SMM crew. Tension mounts as one suspect after another cuts a deal to cooperate. O'Malley and company are pushing upstream. Early in the book, Liz Glazer, a federal prosecutor who works with O'Malley, coins a derisive term for the cases her colleagues consider more worthwhile: "boy food." She's referring to the testosteronetinged enthusiasm her fellow feds display for Mafia investigations, in contrast to their disdain for street-gang cases. Her point is that their priorities are misplaced. Not only is she right, but the concept of "boy food" applies more broadly. Public interest in violence has long tilted toward outlier cases deemed especially exciting, relatable or outrageous. America's appetite for highbrow whodunits, tabloid true crime, noir reprises, miscarriages of justice may be benign enough as a pastime. But because the same taste also rules journalism, advocacy and policy, it distorts the criminal justice system. "Sex Money Murder" is not boy food, thanks to its faithful depiction of the dismal banality of gang crime. One senses at points that Green wants to reach for novelistic flourishes, but he's restrained by better impulses. The book reconstructs events long past and Green is bound by the available sources, mainly investigative records and interviews with members of the gang. Rather than try to compensate for the material he's missing, he bets on plain language and diligent documentation, and allows his sources' unfiltered remembrances to take center stage. The result is as straightforward an account of the sordid tedium of gang life as exists anywhere. Green's narrative reveals Pete, Pipe and the rest to be casually, habitually murderous, assaulting and threatening people with impunity because no one will testify against them. They see fighting as "a form of politics" and before they are out of their teens their criminal acts are so numerous as to blur together; it's surprising they were able to recall them. Without question, these same young men are also victims of stolen childhoods and shriveled opportunities. But they are no less menacing for that. When the feds finally catch up with them, the SMM boys have grown accustomed to such routine brutality that they seem surprised to learn their habits are illegal. After an especially vicious 1997 killing, one member is taken aback by the ensuing media attention: " He thought that this was just going to be a commonplace projects murder." Green captures a level of detail that marks this work as exceptionally authentic. He conveys the grandiose manner of many older gang members, and their attraction to pseudo-intellectual sophistry (one character considers himself an acolyte of Machiavelli). He faithfully follows the thread of innumerable petty dramas that punctuate gang life, and highlights the strange centrality of envy, something many observers miss. It can be hard to keep track of the throngs of characters and myriad feuds, but Green gets his teeth in and hangs on, teasing out deeper truths of the crew's world - namely, the flatness of social relations and the explosive potential of even silly conflicts. Insiders will recognize real-world touches: the bookish spectacles one defendant dons for court, the feral dogs that roam gang neighborhoods, the civilian police employee who passes tips to her gangmember nephew. For outsiders tempted to believe the solutions to criminal justice challenges are simple or obvious, this book is a corrective. It shows that, wherever impunity and lucrative black markets overlap, violence is useful and easy. Ordinary kids may become remorseless killers who shoot at cops and view second chances as a license to do more harm. That Green fails to penetrate the emotional blankness of his SMM subjects is not his fault. Defensive and often pompous, they veer between self-justification and glum resignation. Green is sympathetic, but does not seek to make them more intriguing than they are. In so doing, he shows the folly of "boy food" and scores an implicit point: Murder may not be interesting. But it surely is important. JILL LEOVY is the author of "Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America" and a senior fellow at the University of Southern California's Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. xiii
Act I Soundview: The Genesis of Violence
Prologue: The Roofp. 3
1 Li'l Gunbusterp. 15
2 DO Not Yield to Evilp. 27
3 Hit a Killer, Be a Killerp. 41
4 The Ledger of Deathp. 60
5 The Kids From Cozy Cornerp. 71
6 The Birth of Sugar Shaftp. 85
7 Kidnapped: Blood Begets Bloodp. 94
Act II The Rise of Sex Money Murder
1 Gold Shield #1944p. 113
2 Sex Money Murderp. 123
3 Comap. 138
4 Pipelines of the Gamep. 145
5 Money Bathp. 154
6 Justicep. 172
7 The Murder Gamep. 179
8 Gimme the Lootp. 197
9 Bloodp. 208
10 Nasty Boysp. 223
Act III Ultraviolence: The Fall of Sex Money Murder
1 The Fistp. 231
2 The Officep. 247
3 Thanksgivingp. 257
4 "Make It Reign"p. 270
5 Bangin' For Their Ratsp. 284
6 Myth's Endp. 302
7 Dropping the Flagp. 327
8 5Kp. 348
9 Exilep. 357
Epilogue: "The Streets Don't Love You"p. 371
Postscriptp. 385
Acknowledgmentsp. 387
Select Bibliographyp. 391
Indexp. 395