CHICAGO — Twenty-seven defendants are facing state or federal narcotics charges for their alleged roles in supplying and distributing heroin and crack cocaine on Chicago's west side. An investigation led by Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents assigned to the Chicago Strike Force, resulted in federal charges against 14 defendants and state charges against 13 others. Police and federal agents began arresting the defendants early Thursday morning.
The investigation was conducted through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Chicago Strike Force, which – in addition to DEA, CPD and the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID) – consists of the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Marshals Service and task force officers from various state and local law enforcement agencies, including the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department and the Illinois State Police.
Eight handguns, an AR-15 assault rifle, about $140,000 in U.S. currency, nearly a half-kilogram of heroin and some cocaine were seized during the arrests. Another half-kilogram of heroin was seized during the course of the investigation from last August through this month. Early Thursday, CPD officers, DEA agents and other Chicago Strike Force law enforcement partners also executed eight search warrants upon several defendants' residences and four alleged stash houses.
The federal defendants were charged with conspiracy or possession with intent to distribute narcotics in five separate criminal complaints filed June 11 in U.S. District Court and unsealed following the arrests. The federal defendants were scheduled to begin appearing at 3 p.m. June 12 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Martin. The state defendants were charged with delivery of a controlled substance in separate complaints and will appear later in state court.
According to a 169-page affidavit in support of the federal arrests and search warrants, the investigation revealed that Kenneth Shoulders, a leader of the Conservative Vice Lords (CVL) street gang, controlled the distribution of narcotics in the area bounded by West Roosevelt Road, West Fillmore Street, and South California and South Kedzie avenues immediately north of Douglas Park. Shoulders, 47, of Chicago, aka "Kenny Shannon," allegedly assigned responsibility for narcotics distribution on specific corners within the 12 blocks he controlled to specific individuals, who further delegated distribution to shift workers who sold heroin and crack cocaine throughout the day.
The area is just south of the Interstate 290 Eisenhower Expressway corridor that has been referred to as the "Heroin Highway" because of its accessibility to city and suburban heroin customers.
An admitted member of the "12th Street" faction of the Traveling Vice Lords (TVL) street gang (named for Roosevelt Road's location at 1200 south on Chicago's street grid) told investigators in 2013 that Shoulders is a high ranking CVL member who controlled all of the Vice Lords and drug operations in the area known as "12th Street," north of Roosevelt Road between the 1100 and 1200 blocks. This cooperating individual told agents that the 12th Street Vice Lords consist primarily of CVL members, but also members of the TVL, Black Souls Nation, Gangster Disciples and New Breed street gangs. The non-Vice Lord members are mostly "pack workers" or street level drug dealers who have no direct allegiance to the 12th Street Vice Lords other than making money from selling drugs within the 12th Street territory.
"This case mirrors the trending alignment of Chicago's street gangs into localized drug dealing factions, and the investigation is another example of the extraordinary cooperation among the Chicago Police Department, DEA and other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies," said Zachary T. Fardon, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. "While this case focuses on narcotics trafficking and the complaint does not allege these defendants committed any acts of violence, we believe that bringing serious charges such as these is an effective tool in reducing violence in our communities."
"This operation demonstrates how police and prosecutors are continuing to work together to dig in at the local level and hammer away at the drug markets plaguing our communities," said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. "We are pleased to be an active participant in the Chicago Strike Force efforts and look forward to continued success."
Fardon and Alvarez announced the charges with CPD Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy; Jack Riley, special agent in charge of the DEA's Chicago Field Division; and James C. Lee, special agent in charge of IRS-CID.
"This investigation stemmed from numerous citizen complaints, and those citizens should now be able to enjoy their communities without the threat of these alleged gang and narcotic activities," said CPD First Deputy Superintendent Al Wysinger. "I am extremely proud of the members of our department who led this investigation, and the entire joint law enforcement Strike Force that tracked this alleged criminal organization's illegal activities and is bringing the offenders to justice to make our community safer."
"This is exactly the type of case we envisioned when we put together the Chicago Strike Force," said Riley. "To go after alleged significant criminal organizations and hold the leaders of those organizations accountable for their actions, with the shared desire that the positive results will be felt in our communities."
The complaint affidavit alleges that Shoulders was a wholesale supplier of heroin and worked with his partner, Derrick Washington, aka "D-Rock;" 44, of Hazel Crest, Illinois; his sister, Sandra Shoulders, 49, aka "Penny," of Chicago; and his son, Kenneth Williams, 29, aka "Lil' Kenny," of Chicago and other members of the "Shoulders drug trafficking organization." Another cooperating individual told investigators that Williams managed his father's heroin distribution at the corner of West Fillmore and South Francisco, and that a state defendant, Charles Weathersby, 31, managed Shoulders' crack cocaine distribution from the same corner.
The Shoulders drug trafficking organization operated its heroin distribution from its main stash house at 211 South Lavergne Avenue, as well as specific locations in the 12th Street area, such as 2902 and 2950 West Fillmore Street and 1107 South Mozart Street, the charges allege. Other defendants allegedly diluted the heroin to increase profits, shuttled heroin among the various stash and retail locations, advised Shoulders when a new supply was needed, and returned his share of the profits to him. The Shoulders organization's heroin was typically packaged in small user-portion plastic bags with either a green dollar sign or a black bomb symbol stamped on them.
One federal complaint charges the following nine defendants with conspiracy to possess and distribute more than a kilogram of heroin: Shoulders, Washington, Sandra Shoulders, Williams, Anthony Hayes, 48, aka "Mustafa;" Harrison Hall, 50; Tiara White, 27; Marleana Porter, 20; and Crane Marks, 50, all of Chicago. If convicted, they each face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment and a $10 million fine.
Rodney Bedenfield, 40, of Chicago, aka "Bump," was charged separately with supplying heroin to the Shoulders organization. Marc Davis, 45, of Chicago, allegedly supplied heroin to Bedenfield. Davis was charged with Queenie Vargas, 25, of Chicago, an alleged courier who transported heroin for Davis. If convicted, these three defendants face a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years and a $5 million fine.
Dorian Miller, 42, of Riverdale, Illinois and Jewneus Wilson, 35, of Chicago, were charged separately with being heroin customers of Bedenfield. If convicted, they face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
The state defendants, in addition to Weathersby, are: Jim Dunbar, 19; Amos Hadley, 61; David Higgs, 37; Deonte Hollingworth, 26; Paris Holmes, 18; John Perry, 26; Nikki Sanders, 21; Milton Taylor, 30; Antwone Washington, 20; Nathaniel Yancey, 21; Shardell Green, 27; and Antwone Henry, 27, all of Chicago.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen P. Baker, Shoba Pillay and Katherine A. Sawyer from the Northern District of Illinois are representing the government in the federal cases. Assistant State's Attorney Aaron R. Bond is handling the state cases.
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.