Major gang takedown in Chicago

Officials announce results of major gang takedown in Chicago

More than 40 leaders and senior members of a Chicago street gang responsible for the operation of a violent drug-dealing enterprise on Chicago’s West Side were charged today in an unprecedented gang takedown applying the legal tools provided in the state’s new “RICO” statute, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced today. 

For the first time in Cook County history, state prosecutors announced “RICO” related charges against 23 defendants who are primarily members of the “Black Souls,” including the gang’s top leader or “chief” and other top tier members of the notoriously violent Chicago street gang.  An additional 18 defendants have been charged with state drug offenses and other crimes as a result of the investigation, dubbed “Operation 40 Cal.”  The investigation was conducted in partnership with the State’s Attorney’s Office, the Chicago Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

The 23 defendants have all been charged with Racketeering Conspiracy and Calculated Criminal Drug Conspiracy, both Class X felony offenses.  Among those charged is gang “chief” Cornel Dawson, 38, also known as “Corn”; and the gang’s second in command, Teron ODum, 34, also known as “Ty.”  Also charged were the gang’s top four “princes,” or “top runners,” who each manage one of the gang’s street drug market locations.   They are identified as Antwan Davis, 30; Ulysses Polk, 32; Clifton Lemon, 41, and Jeff Thompson, 44.  The charges were unsealed today in an affidavit and criminal complaints filed by the State’s Attorney’s Office in Cook County Criminal Court.  

“Operation 40 Cal” targeted top gang leadership as well as key members, gang enforcers and gang supervisors who have been operating an open-air, 24-hour-a-day criminal drug enterprise with the primary street sales spots for both cocaine and heroin located in a two by three block radius in the vicinity of Madison and Pulaski. 

Selling primarily small packets of heroin in hand-to-hand transactions with drive-by customers, law enforcement authorities estimate that the operation could have been taking in as much as $11 million annually in cash proceeds.

The RICO charges enable prosecutors to target organized gang activity and gang leadership and charge each defendant with a criminal conspiracy based on the patterns and practices of the gang’s criminal enterprise. 

In this case, the RICO charges are based on the previous violent criminal conduct of the gang leadership and members dating back to May of 1999.  The underlying charges in “Operation 40 Cal” consist of multiple counts of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder, including the attempted murder of two Chicago police officers.  Additional underlying charges include the murder or intimidation of witnesses, murder of other gang members as a form of punishment, drug trafficking, bribery, kidnapping, armed robbery, burglary and various weapons offenses. 

State’s Attorney Alvarez, whose administration wrote the new RICO law, said the elements of the statute will now enable local prosecutors to tackle gang cases much like federal-style prosecutions targeting gang violence.  While the federal government has successfully used RICO to combat criminal gangs for more than 40 years, Illinois was one of few states that lacked a modern state RICO law.

“The new Street Gang RICO law has enabled us to launch an unprecedented attack on the leadership of this violent and notorious Chicago street gang,” Alvarez said.  “It is a Game Changer for law enforcement in our war against Chicago street gangs.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who strongly supported legislative efforts to enact a state-based RICO law, hailed the new measure as a valuable tool for police and prosecutors.  

“I pushed for a statewide RICO law so that our public safety officials would have a valuable tool in reclaiming our neighborhoods from gangs, guns and drugs,” said Emanuel. 

“Building cases like this take a long time and thanks to the hard work and cooperation of the Chicago Police Department, the FBI and Cook County State’s Attorney, these violent criminals are facing stiff penalties and communities across Chicago will continue to see more progress in the fight against crime.” 

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy said the operation marked a “milestone” for law enforcement efforts. 

“This is a milestone moment in our effort to continue reducing violence and crime in Chicago, made possible by our officers and our state and federal law enforcement partners,” said McCarthy. “The arrests and charges under the state RICO law are significant and meaningful, and this powerful tool will help us continue to reduce violence as part of our comprehensive policing strategy.”

 Added Cory B. Nelson, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the FBI:

“Today’s arrests are another chapter in our focused efforts to rid Chicago’s neighborhoods of violence,” said Nelson.  “They demonstrate the effectiveness of joining forces with our law enforcement partners toward that common goal.”

The investigation began seven months ago after gang members sanctioned and carried out the murder of West Side resident Claude Snulligan, who had contacted police repeatedly to complain about the gang’s illegal activities on his block and was targeted for murder by the gang as a result.  Snulligan was found dead with one shot to the back of his head by a .40-caliber bullet at Madison and Pulaski on Oct. 20, 2012.

 The investigation employed the use of multiple court approved wiretaps and search warrants as well as video surveillance.  Law enforcement surveillance also captured gang activity in the primary areas where the gang members would gather for meetings and where much of the criminal activity occurred.One year ago the state Legislature approved the “Street Gang RICO” law, which was written by the State’s Attorney’s Office and strongly supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Police Department.  The law was sponsored by State Sen. Tony Munoz and State Rep. Michael Zalewski. The public is reminded that criminal charging documents contain allegations that are not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the state has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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