Domingo “Mingo” Blount was paranoid about the cops — and he had every reason to be.
Federal and local law enforcement were focusing on the “choke point” in a Chicago drug distribution network — the shadowy spot along the chain where local street gangs come into contact with Mexican drug-trafficking organizations.
And Blount was “Mr. Choke Point” for a heroin ring, putting him in the crosshairs of the investigation, authorities said.
Blount, 37, a reputed member of the Black Disciples gang, was arrested last month in a federal and city investigation that’s part of a joint effort to focus more on choke points in drug networks in Chicago, a vital distribution hub for illegal drugs.
Traditionally, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has investigated the international ties to Chicago’s drug markets, and Chicago police have targeted the gangs that run the drug markets, said Scott Ando, assistant special agent in charge of the DEA office in Chicago.
Starting this fall, a new strike force consisting of the DEA, Chicago police, the FBI and other agencies will focus on the choke points, authorities said.
Blount’s arrest also underscored a key fact of the street. Gangs may clash over drug-selling territory, but the higher up you go in a drug ring, gang affiliation matters less and less.
“At a certain level, it’s not about gang colors but about the color of money,” said Jim O’Grady, commander of the Chicago police narcotics division.
At the wholesale level, gang members don’t care with whom they deal as long as they have a good supply source and their customers pay top dollar, according to authorities. They said Blount, for instance, took part in a drug network involving several gangs and would buy drugs from rival gang members and sell to others.
Blount was arrested as part of charges against 38 people in the federal and city investigation that led to the seizure of more than 34 pounds of heroin, 15 pounds of cocaine, more than $1 million in cash, seven vehicles and two guns. The drugs were destined for the streets of Chicago, New York and Cincinnati, officials said.
The investigation began in March 2010 when an undercover Chicago police officer began buying heroin from Blount, authorities said, and the DEA was focused on the same drug network. When the agencies realized they were both targeting Blount, they launched a joint investigation.
They discovered that Blount was buying heroin and cocaine from a man named Arturo Flores, as well as other higher-level distributors with ties to Mexican drug rings, authorities said.
In one shipment, more than six pounds of heroin were hidden inside cans of beans and transported from Mexico to Chicago in February. The drugs arrived on a Greyhound bus, were repackaged, then got a transportation upgrade when they were hidden in a BMW and driven to New York City.
Authorities believe the February heroin shipment was arranged by a supplier in Cuernavaca near Mexico City. The unidentified Mexican supplier told Flores, the alleged drug distributor in Chicago, that he was desperate for cash, according to a wiretapped phone call.
The police in Mexico “gave us a big beating and we’re barely getting back on our feet,” the supplier told Flores, who soon was to get his own “beating” from the DEA and Chicago police.
Flores, 45, paid a courier $144,500 for the drugs, and later that day, police stopped the courier’s vehicle in Bensenville and confiscated the money, according to a federal document.
Meanwhile, authorities had seized the heroin after the BMW arrived in New York City with the drugs concealed in a secret compartment. Flores was shocked, and the supplier advised Flores to change his phone number, according to a federal prosecutor.
But that didn’t stop the feds, as they kept tapping and tapping his new phones — and recording more allegedly illegal drug deals.
The government spent more than $600,000 on wiretaps in the investigation, which picked up an offer to sell an AR-15 assault rifle and talk of murders, authorities said. They said people charged in the case were hit with a slew of drug charges, but no one has been charged with murder.
BY FRANK MAIN
July 1, 2011
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