CHICAGO — More than 50 people, including a reputed gang member, are facing criminal charges as part of a joint federal and state investigation into heroin and fentanyl sales in the city’s West Side.
These charges were announced by the following agency heads: U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr., Northern District of Illinois; Special Agent in Charge James M. Gibbons, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Chicago; Special Agent in Charge Gabriel L. Grchan, IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; Cook County (Illinois) State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx; and Superintendent Eddie Johnson of the Chicago Police Department. U.S. Marshals Service provided substantial assistance.
This investigation, dubbed “Operation Fat Chance,” centered on drug sales on the city’s West Side and resulted in seizing more than three kilograms of heroin, more than a kilogram of cocaine, and more than 230 grams of fentanyl.
Authorities also seized eight illegal firearms, including a semi-automatic assault rifle with a drum-barrel magazine, and more than $100,000 in narcotics proceeds.
As part of this investigation, law enforcement shut down two open-air drug markets in the city’s North Lawndale and East Garfield Park neighborhoods.
The probe was conducted under the umbrella of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, whose principal mission is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations.
Criminal complaints and affidavits filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago charge 15 defendants with various drug offenses.
Two of the federal targets were arrested on Tuesday and several more were arrested Thursday.
Forty-two other defendants were charged in state complaints, and many of them were also arrested Thursday.
The defendants have begun making initial appearances in Cook County Criminal Court.
According to the federal complaints, Thomas Barfield, 36, of Chicago, is a reputed street-gang member who operated a drug trafficking organization that utilized street-level distributors (known as “pack workers”) to sell heroin and fentanyl to customers.
Many of the deals were carried out at an open-air drug market near the intersection of Homan Avenue and Douglas Boulevard in Chicago, the complaints state.
The sales were allegedly overseen by the following four high-ranking members of Barfield’s organization: Charelle Thompson, 28, Nicole Green, 34, Gloria Anderson, 60, and Thomas Smith, 65, all from Chicago.
Quiera Walls, 35, and Jarvis Payne, 30, both from Chicago, are alleged to have assisted Barfield with packaging and distributing narcotics.
According to the complaints, from December 2017 to April 2018, law enforcement conducted numerous undercover drug purchases from Smith, Anderson and the pack workers, including Michael Jackson, 44, Anton Brown, 46, and Alfred Johnson, 54, all from Chicago.
Last month, agents searched Barfield’s home and three alleged stash houses in Chicago’s West Side, seizing heroin, cocaine, a rifle, two handguns, and drug-packaging materials, the complaints state.
The federal complaints also describe an April 2018 narcotics transaction in front of a grocery store in 4400 block of West Armitage Avenue in the Hermosa neighborhood of Chicago.
According to the charges, Jose Hernandez, 48, of Chicago, delivered a kilogram of cocaine to Obed Ornelas, 36, of Chicago, inside Ornelas’ Ford Mustang.
When officers attempted to pull over the Mustang, Ornelas allegedly sped off and tossed the bag of cocaine out of the driver’s side window.
Officers recovered the bag in the 2400 block of North Kedzie Avenue in Chicago, the complaints state.
The complaints also allege that Ornelas supplied Barfield with narcotics.
Also charged in the federal complaints is another reputed gang member, Willie Kelley, 26, of Chicago.
Kelley allegedly managed heroin sales at an open-air drug market near the intersection of Lexington Street and Sacramento Avenue in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood.
The federal complaints also charge Darius Franklin, 34, of Algonquin, and Jonathan Harris, 26, of Cicero.
According to the complaints, Franklin and Harris are alleged to have distributed heroin to various narcotics customers.
Agents searched Franklin’s alleged stash house and recovered more than two kilograms of heroin and drug-packaging materials.
Franklin is also alleged to have provided heroin to Willie Kelley.
The public is reminded that a complaint contains only charges and is 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.
If convicted, the Court must impose reasonable sentences under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nani Gilkerson and Jeannice Appenteng, Northern District of Illinois.