Bakery leader thought robbing drug dealer would net $500,000 to save bankrupt business
By Thomas Peele, The Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — As Your Black Muslim Bakery teetered on financial collapse in the spring of 2007, Yusuf Bey IV believed that robbing an East Oakland drug dealer known for wearing white suits and driving a Mercedes would net the business a $500,000 windfall, his half-brother, Yusuf Bey V, testified Monday.
When Bey IV led four of his followers out on the night of May 17, 2007, Bey V said he believed they were going to find that dealer, Tim Crawford, and take his money. The bakery was more than $1 million in debt at the time and had filed for bankruptcy.
But instead of robbing Crawford, they ended up kidnapping a woman driving a Pontiac who sometimes bought drugs from Crawford. She had $1 in her purse and no idea where the dealer kept his stash.
“The bakery needed the money,” Bey V testified Monday during the trial of Richard Lewis, who faces 13 felony counts for his role in the alleged kidnapping and torturing of the woman. Bey V said he considers himself “very close” to Bey IV and has refused to testify against him in a separate trial.
Bey V said his brother had learned from another drug dealer, Johnny Anton, that Crawford had a lot of cash. Anton wanted Crawford’s drugs in exchange for the information, Bey V said, but added that his brother had planned to reject that idea. The brother’s father, bakery founder Yusuf Bey, had taught them that drugs “were ruining our community.”
Bey V testified that Lewis was with him and Bey IV when they used a former police car to stop her on I-580 and kidnap her and her mother. Bey V has pleaded guilty and is to receive a 10-year jail term for cooperating against Lewis.
They took the woman to an abandoned house, he said. She was handcuffed. A garbage bag was pulled over her head. She repeatedly denied having any money or information about Crawford.
Bey V said he first believed her “because we had guns” and the woman should have been scared enough to tell them what she knew. Then, he said, he found drugs in her purse and his attitude toward her changed.
“Did you hit that woman?” Prosecutor Christopher Lamiero asked him.
“Yes. I seen the drugs, I knew she was lying,” Bey V said. He struck her, he said, in the head with the butt of a heavy pistol. She appeared to lose consciousness and hit her head on the side of a stove as she fell from the chair, he added.
Lewis then threatened to burn her with a hot curling iron, Bey V testified. But before anything else happened, a police officer patrolling the area drove past the house. Bey IV saw the officer and fled. Bey V said the others followed Bey IV.
Bey V said repeatedly he didn’t know the woman was going to be kidnapped when he, Lewis and Bey IV, dressed in all black and carrying masks, left the bakery that night. He said he assumed Bey IV was ready to take down Crawford but didn’t ask any questions.
Bey IV handed him a revolver, he said, describing it as a large caliber weapon “about a foot long.” He said he believed it didn’t fire.
Lamiero asked him if it was reasonable to expect a drug dealer with a $500,000 stash would use weapons to protect it.
When Bey V said yes, Lamerio asked him why, then, wasn’t he worried about being armed only with a gun he didn’t think would fire.
Bey V said he would have raised the issue with Bey IV, but Lewis, who he didn’t know well, was in the car and he didn’t want to talk in front of him.
“Did you think about getting out of the car?” Lamiero asked.
“If my brother was going, I was going,” the witness replied.
Earlier, Bey V said he had concerns about the bakery’s finances and that he decided to return to Oakland from Palo Alto to help his brother run the business. Bey IV, he said, was trying to refinance loans their late brother, Antar Bey, had taken against the bakery shortly before he was killed in 2005.
The borrowed money had disappeared, Bey V testified, and Bey IV was desperate to avoid bankruptcy.
His brother couldn’t refinance the debt. In fact, he said, his brother appeared to be incompetent at even the most basic aspects of running the business.
“I’d look at the shelves and the products wouldn’t even be wrapped properly,” he testified.