Nearly 100 Alleged Traveling Vice Lords Street Gang Members and Associates Facing State or Federal Narcotics Charges
31 Federal and 65 State Defendants Accused in West Side Crack Cocaine and Heroin Sales
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 17, 2010|
CHICAGO—Around-the-clock retail street sales of crack cocaine and heroin, averaging between $3,000 and $6,000 per day, seven days a week, were conducted by a core group of several alleged members of the Traveling Vice Lords street gang and their associates on the city’s west side, according to new federal and state charges. The daily routines of these individuals and dozens of others ended today when hundreds of Chicago Police officers, FBI agents, and deputy U.S. Marshals began serving arrest warrants on nearly 100 state and federal defendants and conducting searches, ending a two-year investigation.
Significant multi-ounce quantities of crack cocaine and heroin were seized during the investigation. The Chicago Police Department’s Organized Crime Division began investigating an alleged drug-trafficking organization led by members of the TVL street gang that operated in the area of Kedzie Avenue and Ohio Street, known as “KO,” in August 2008. The FBI joined the investigation three months later.
The federal defendants arrested today were expected to begin appearing at 1:30 this afternoon before Magistrate Judge Young Kim in Courtroom 1944D in U.S. District Court, and will continue through the afternoon and tomorrow morning.
“For the fifth time in the last four months, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies are joining forces to announce significant arrests involving street gang members, their associates and drug trafficking. These cases, which we believe weaken the grip of gangs and drugs in our community, happen because dedicated police officers and federal agents, along with state and federal prosecutors, work together to attack these problems,” said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
Mr. Fitzgerald announced the charges together with Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s Attorney; Jody P. Weis, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department; and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The U.S. Marshals Service assisted with the arrests. The investigation was conducted under the umbrella of U.S. Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), and with assistance from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA). The investigation is continuing.
“We will continue to combine our law enforcement resources in order to maximize our impact in targeting and eliminating this type of organized drug trafficking that brings so much havoc and unrest to our communities,” Ms. Alvarez said.
Mr. Grant said: “The charges announced today were the result of a joint FBI/Chicago Police investigation that targeted drug-dealing in the North Lawndale area of Chicago. Community involvement was critical to the success of this investigation and demonstrates once again the importance of citizen cooperation in aiding law enforcement.”
“The Chicago Police Department is committed to working with our partners to rid our communities of gangs, guns and drugs. Focused, collaborative investigations such as this send a clear message to gang members and their associates that their illegal activity will not be tolerated,” Superintendent Weis said.
The investigation, code-named Operation Blue Knight, is part of a sustained, coordinated effort by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to disrupt Chicago’s highly-organized drug trafficking organizations. The investigation employed wiretaps, cooperating witnesses, undercover surveillance, and undercover drug transactions, resulting in seizures of evidence.
A total of eight federal complaints filed yesterday and unsealed today charged a total of 31 federal defendants in connection with this investigation. One complaint alleges that several TVL members and their associates, led by brothers, Jason Austin, also known as “J Rock,” and Charles Austin, aka “Bubba,” both alleged TVL members, conspired to distribute crack cocaine, known as “rocks,” and heroin, known as “blows,” to customers via hand-to-hand transactions in the “KO.” During the investigation, law enforcement officers repeatedly surveilled the conduct of alleged co-conspirators at KO. Surveillance, often video recorded, observed hand-to-hand drug transactions, controlled purchases of narcotics by undercover Chicago police officers, and controlled purchases of narcotics by confidential sources.
According to an 89-page complaint affidavit by a Chicago police officer assigned to an FBI task force, the heroin was named “Blue Magic,” and when the quality of the “Blue Magic” was good, customers came from as far away as Elgin and parts of Iowa to purchase the heroin. Members of the KO drug-trafficking organization obtain, possess, and use firearms to both protect and further advance the drug operation, the charges allege, adding that the TVL members have sold drugs at KO for decades.
In the fall of 2008, the KO organization temporarily moved to Chicago and St. Louis avenues due to a strong police presence in the KO area. When the move occurred, the organization initially conducted a “pass out” of heroin, and later resumed sales, but sold only about half the amount that was sold previously at the KO, which often ranged from 60 to 120 grams of heroin per day. The drug operation at Chicago and St. Louis avenues allegedly was managed by Kevin Terry, Jr. In the Fall of 2009, the heroin operation temporarily relocated to Ferdinand Street and Hamlin Avenue, which he also ran, due to J. Austin’s failure to successfully keep the heroin operation running at KO, according to the charges.
The KO drug operation allegedly relied on various defendants to store packaged drugs in common areas and residences at KO, such as 520 N. Kedzie and the liquor store parking lot located at 501 N. Kedzie. “Runners” distributed the packaged drugs to “managers,” who supervised the drug operation at KO. The managers distributed the drugs to “pack workers,” who worked shifts selling the drugs to customers and those same managers were also responsible for collecting the proceeds of the drug sales at KO. The customers paid the “pack workers” and, in exchange for cash, the “pack workers” gave the customers narcotics. After the narcotics were sold, the workers provided the cash to the “runners” and/or “managers” of the drug spot, according to the complaint affidavit.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office obtained arrest warrants for 65 defendants, including four juveniles, on narcotics possession and delivery charges, including more than 20 Class X felony narcotics charges.
The federal defendants were charged with various narcotics distribution counts. All but two defendants (Bell and Bonds) face penalties ranging between a mandatory minimum of five years in prison to a maximum of life in prison and fines ranging between $2 million and $4 million, while Bell and Bonds each face a maximum of 20 years in prison and $25,000 fine. If convicted, the court must impose a reasonable sentence under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is being represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Maribel Fernandez-Harvath, Matthew Madden, Marny Zimmer, and Christopher McFadden.
The public is reminded that complaints contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
A list of the federal defendants follows (with best known ages, and all reside in Chicago unless noted otherwise):
|CASE NO. 10 CR 971|
|Jason Austin||J Rock||28|
|Kevin Terry, Jr.||Little Kurt||21|
|CASE NO. 10 CR 962|
|Kevin Terry Sr.,||Captain Kurt/Kurt||46|
|Lionel Brown,||June / Shorty||29|
|Derrick Lewis,||Colby / D.C.||45|
|CASE NO. 10 CR 961|
|CASE NO. 10 CR 967|
|Corey Griffin||Fat Rat||unknown|
|CASE NO. 10 CR 964|
|CASE NO. 10 CR 963|
|Christopher Bonds||Big Bro/Foo Nuts||20|
|CASE NO. 10 CR 966|
|Kevin White||Big White||48||Oak Park|
|Maurize Cossom||Big Lord||26|
|CASE NO. 10 CR 965|