A 54-year-old New Orleans man pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to murdering an associate of his to prevent the associate from working with authorities investigating a burglary ring they participated in. Ring leader Gregory Denson admitted that he and eight other people who had already pleaded guilty teamed up to break into the homes of metro area drug dealers to steal cash and property from them between June 2013 and May 2014. One of his co-defendants was a nephew, Acting U.S. Attorney Duane Evans' office in New Orleans said. In May 2014, after a botched break-in in Gretna resulted in the arrest of ring member Ellery Boyd, Denson provided money to bail Boyd out and set up a meeting with him at a vacant home in New Orleans' Gert Town neighborhood, prosecutors said. He fatally shot Boyd, 35, in the chest and back — later referring to him as "a dead rat" — and then helped throw his body into the Industrial Canal. Court records show Denson referring to Boyd's murder as sending him to "the upper room" to prevent him from taking the "whole gang down." The feds announced they secured charges against Denson and his co-defendants in May 2015. After pleading guilty eight counts, including murder of a witness, robberies, conspiracy to commit robberies and obstruction of justice, he faces a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is tentatively set to sentence him March 8. The investigation that ensnared Denson was led by the FBI New Orleans Field Office's Violent Crime Task Force and the New Orleans Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Simpson, Gregory Kennedy, and James Baehr prosecuted the case.