The Mercury News Weekend
Arrests made in mysterious 2020 killing of 2 California men
With little fanfare, federal prosecutors here secured an indictment alleging that two men lured to their deaths in October 2020 were fatally shot on the orders of an incarcerated Aryan Brotherhood member, court records show.
The indictment was added to an existing federal prosecution targeting the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang and a Fresno-area White power gang known as the Fresnecks. But although the original case included only allegations of alleged drug trafficking, prosecutors now claim they have evidence implicating gang members in three killings and two additional murder conspiracies that never came to fruition.
The new defendants, Kenneth “Kenwood” Johnson, Francis Clement, Brandon Bannick and Justin Gray, are charged with murdering Allan Roshanski, 34, of Vista, and Ruslan Magomedgadzhiev, 40, of Tarzana. Both men were fatally shot in the early morning hours of Oct. 4, 2020, in the Los Angeles County city of Lomita, a small community located near Long Beach.
The indictment was filed with several names redacted, including Bannick, Gray and both victims' names. But recently filed court papers offer details on why authorities were able to tie the slayings to the gang. Defense attorneys have said in court filings that prosecutors are being sluggish in turning over discovery, and that they expect the case will come down to the word of government informants who may have a motive to lie. In one Feb. 27 filing, Bannick's attorneys wrote they have yet to see any evidence implicating their client.
The indictment also charges at least two other people with murder for a killing that occurred on Aug. 12, 2015. The defendants' names have been redacted from that part of the indictment and the victim's real name isn't used. But the date just so happens to be when two alleged Aryan Brotherhood members, Jayson “Beaver” Weaver and Waylon Pitchford, fatally stabbed Hugo “Yogi” Pinell, a reputed Black Guerilla Family member and member of the infamous San Quentin Six, on a Sacramento prison yard. In 2019, federal prosecutors charged other alleged Aryan Brotherhood members with involvement in Pinell's murder but left Weaver and Pitchford off the indictment.
Johnson's name already has come up in the 2019 Aryan Brotherhood case, but as a victim, not a defendant. Prosecutors allege that Johnson was targeted for murder 2017 due to a fallout over a botched drug robbery in Orange County. Defense attorneys, however, are now questioning how Johnson could have been legitimately targeted by the gang if he was involved in a gang-related murder plot three years later.
Additionally, Kenneth Bash, an alleged Aryan Brotherhood associate, is charged with conspiracy to murder two people, including an unnamed man who was suspected of child molestation, according to court records. Bash was already charged in the federal case but faced allegations of participating in a scheme to smuggle methamphetamine and heroin into Salinas Valley State Prison's B Yard.
The criminal complaint against Bash, filed in November 2020, alleges that a man named Waylon whose initials are “WP” was one of several involved in the plot to murder the alleged child molester. It further alleges the pair worked with Aryan Brotherhood member Todd “Fox” Morgan to send the would-be hit man a gun. Morgan was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison for drug smuggling last year.
The second murder plot allegedly involving Bash, which started in late 2019, is not described in detail.
The indictment alleges that the conspiracy to kill Roshanski and Magomedgadzhiev started three days before they were gunned down.
Six weeks later, an LAPD drug investigator brought forth a confidential informant to federal agents, who reported overhearing Gray talking to two others at an apartment in Long Beach about how he “got those two Russian guys” in Lomita. Authorities say Gray was promised membership in the Aryan Brotherhood for killing both men, and that cellphone records show he and Roshanski talked within an hour of the shooting.
Another tipster, who isn't named in court papers, told authorities that Roshanski had left the state in August to visit a relative, and that property was stolen from him during the vacation. She told authorities that the day before the homicide, he said he was going to a “trap house” — slang for a residence where drugs are sold — in Long Beach to retrieve his “stuff” and appeared nervous.
At Roshanski's funeral several days later, loved ones described him as an outgoing and loving person with a “soft heart.”
“He made friends everywhere he went. Some good friends, some not so good friends,” one woman said through her tears. “Everybody loved him.”
Magomedgadzhiev, meanwhile, came to the United States as a refugee fleeing the Second Chechen War, according to court documents. He attended college and worked various jobs in Southern California, including a supervisory role at a cleaning company and as a truck driver. In 2010, though, he was indicted alongside a reputed Israeli mobster in an extortion case centered in Las Vegas.
In the Las Vegas case, prosecutors described Magomedgadzhiev as hired muscle who assaulted a man amid a business dispute between competing operators of kiosks at local malls and casinos. A 2010 story by the late Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German says that a codefendant had reputed ties to “a very powerful organized crime family” in Israel and accidentally blew one of his arms off while attempting to plant a bomb underneath a rival's car.
After pleading guilty to a federal offense, Magomedgadzhiev wrote an apology letter saying his actions were a mistake and he didn't fully comprehend the seriousness of it at the time.
“My crime was a one time foolish act brought about by my feeling obligated to and impressed by my former employer,” he wrote.