In this Feb. 15, 2017 photo, police tape litters the ground at the scene of a Feb. 14, shooting that killed a toddler and a man authorities say was the intended target in Chicago, Ill. City and federal law enforcement authorities on Friday announced more than three dozens arrests targeting open-air drug dealing on Chicago's West Side. Police Supt. Eddie Johnson argues that drug dealing is fueling Chicago's interminable gun violence.Teresa Crawford, AP
Law enforcement authorities say they arrested more than three dozen suspects late Thursday and early Friday morning in raids targeting the heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine trade on Chicago’s West Side— an area hard hit by a level of violence that the city has not seen since the 1990s.
Authorities are hopeful that the sting, dubbed "Operation Travel Shut Down," will help undercut high-profile gang and drug suppliers suspected of fueling the city’s interminable gun violence. The massive roundup — the culmination of a Chicago Police, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service investigation that began more than a year ago — comes as the city is dealing with a surge in gun violence that has tallied nearly 900 murders since the beginning of 2016.
Among those arrested are 11 men facing federal drug trafficking, drug conspiracy, gun running and other charges for their parts in operating open-air drug markets in the city controlled by a violent faction of the Traveling Vice Lords street gang known as the “Cali Boys,” authorities said. Police are also looking for at least 18 more suspects they say were part of the drug conspiracy. The others swept up in the alleged conspiracy, most of whom authorities allege are tied to the gang, will face state charges.
One of those arrested, an alleged supplier of heroin and cocaine to the gang, is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who had been ordered to be deported from the U.S. more than 45 years ago, according to a federal complaint.
“We often talk about the gun violence that disproportionately affects young African-American men,” said Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson “When we dig a little deeper we can see that this violence is mainly being fueled by the sale of illegal drugs.”
During the planning for this week’s raid, CPD analysts reviewed 2016 ambulance calls for opioid overdoses in the city. Police said the map for where ambulances are being summoned for drug overdoses is almost an identical overlay to areas most impacted by gun violence — underscoring that the gang-fueled drug trade is driving the violence in Chicago.
The major bust should also mark a bit of déjà vu for law enforcement in Chicago who have been dealing with the scourge of gang violence for decades.
One of the blocks where the purported drug dealing was taking place was at the center of a major undercover police investigation in the middle 1990s that led to the conviction on federal drug and racketeering charges of more than a dozen members of the Traveling Vice Lords, including the gang’s then-leader, Andrew “Bay-Bay” Patterson.
With this latest bust, police allege that the gang used some of the proceeds to purchase firearms through straw purchasers that were used to help them protect their drug trade. Chief Anthony Riccio, who heads the CPD’s bureau of organized crime, said that investigators were able to track some of the cash that was used to purchase drugs that was in turn used to buy guns from a firearms dealer in the suburbs.
In the course of the investigation, police recovered eight pounds of heroin, five pounds of methamphetamine, and one pound of cocaine.
Authorities began their investigation in August 2015 after a purported member of the Travelling Vice Lords killed two people and wounded two others, authorities said.
The gunman, who police have identified as 20-year-old Frank Robinson, and the man who drove the getaway vehicle, Ricky Dortch, were arrested about 10 months later and charged with first-degree murder for the double homicide.
Riccio said investigators “had a lot of cooperation” from the suspects implicated in the double homicide which helped authorities further develop their probe of the drug operation.
Ranking Traveling Vice Lord Tyrone Hunter, 38 and Anthony Williams, 32, were among the most senior gang members nabbed in the raids. Authorities allege they supplied the street dealers and supervised the drug sales. Hunter, who was known the street as “Brother Man” and “Brah,” also owned a barbershop on the city’s West Side that was used as a stash house.
One of Hunter''s and Williams' alleged suppliers charged in the sting was Salvador Rojas-Morales, 63, an undocumented immigrant who went by the alias Ambrocio Morales.
Morales, who faces charges for distribution of heroin and cocaine and unlawful possession of a firearm by an illegal alien, was ordered to be deported in August 1971, according to a federal complaint.
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Chicago nabs dozens in 'Traveling Vice Lords' gang linked to coke, meth and heroin
CHICAGO — Law enforcement authorities say they arrested more than three dozen suspects late Thursday and early Friday morning in raids targeting...