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Youth Development Coach Martin Murff, Who Worked With Kids To Stop Violence In Chicago At UCAN, Is Now Charged As Violent Gang Leader

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Martin Murff spent years working with kids to stop violence in Chicago, and was thought to be part of the solution.

But as CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Monday night, federal prosecutors in Michigan now say he is a huge part of the problem – and is actually the leader of a violent street gang.

In 2019, Martin, or Marty, Murff received a presidential coin from UCAN – the renowned social service agency that helps at-risk kids and families. On June 3, he was charged in a federal racketeering indictment handed down in Detroit with being the prince of the violent Vice Lords street gang.

Prosecutors said Murff has been a top gang leader in Chicago, and the country, for years.

"If they've got to kill somebody, they will," said Jim Dier, Special Agent in Charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Detroit. "If they have to shoot them, if they have to assault them physically, if they have to stab them, then they'll do that."

It is a life that prosecutors said Murff led even before he started working for UCAN. He joined UCAN in 2016 as a youth development coach to help stop street and gang violence in and around Chicago's Lawndale neighborhood.

In an article honoring him, Murff was quoted calling his own work redeeming. Murff, who served prison time for murder, was quoted as saying, "I can go to bed with a smile like, I think I saved a life today."

But federal prosecutors charged Murff and a total of 40 defendants with "promoting and enhancing the (gang) enterprise and its members," and specifically accused Murff of trafficking heroin and fentanyl as recently as February.

"It's a huge concern," said Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert. "It's putting the fox to guard the chicken coop."

UCAN gets tens of millions of dollars in government grants and contracts to run counseling, foster, and residential programs for at-risk children. Murff most recently worked as a supervisor in UCAN's violence intervention and prevention program.

In a statement, UCAN spokesman Derrick Baker said, "We have not seen any evidence of any unlawful activity conducted by or involving Marty."

Baker also said Murff has been suspended without pay from the West Side agency. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Detroit office said Murff is still in federal custody and will be taken to Michigan by U.S. Marshals in the future.

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