24 defendants charged in joint federal and state investigation of two violent street gangs on the West Side of Chicago

CHICAGO — Twenty-four individuals are facing federal charges following an investigation targeting two street gangs responsible for firearms offenses, narcotics trafficking, and violence on the West Side of Chicago.

During the investigation, dubbed “Operation Full Circle,” federal, state, and local law enforcement officers worked together to seize 34 firearms, more than six kilograms of heroin, more than 17 kilograms of cocaine, more than a kilogram of fentanyl, approximately 50 grams of crack cocaine, 200 pounds of marijuana, and more than $1.3 million in cash and jewelry allegedly purchased with narcotics trafficking proceeds.  Much of the alleged firearms offenses, drug trafficking, and violence occurred in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago.

 “Operation Wicked Stones,” part of “Operation Full Circle,” focused on activities by alleged high-ranking members of both the Wicked Town faction of the Traveling Vice Lords and the Black P-Stone Nation street gangs.  The indictments and a criminal complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court in Chicago allege federal firearms, narcotics, and money laundering offenses. The investigation also resulted in previously filed federal charges against three defendants for their alleged role in a murder-for-hire conspiracy.  Many of the federal defendants were arrested Thursday, and detention hearings will be held next week in federal court in Chicago.

The charges were announced by Robert J. Bell, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration; John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Kristen deTineo, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives; Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation; Nicholas Roti, Executive Director of Chicago HIDTA; and David Brown, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. Valuable assistance was provided by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John D. Mitchell and Grayson S. Walker and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen B. McCurry.

The investigation was jointly conducted by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Task Force (HIDTA).  The task forces are comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies who work together to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations.

Seven federal defendants are charged in United States v. Harris, et al (20 CR 308).  The complaint describes a drug trafficking organization in which the defendants worked together to distribute wholesale quantities of heroin and cocaine on the West Side of Chicago, and two of the seven defendants are also charged with firearms offenses. The defendants are: James Harris, 51, of Berkley, Patrick Turner, 52, of Bellwood, Gregory Hopkins, 50, of Chicago, Larnell Pillow, 51, of Chicago, Rickey Griffin, 51, of South Holland, Eric Berger, ­­­ 53, of Chicago, and Reginald Richmond, 29, of Sunrise Terrace. According to the complaint, in April 2020, Harris, wearing his Chicago Transit Authority work uniform, met with Turner to acquire 322 grams of heroin. Federal and state law enforcement officers seized the heroin from Harris outside of Turner’s residence, the complaint alleges. The complaint also alleges that during April 2020, law enforcement officers seized a firearm from Griffin, who could not lawfully possess a firearm because of prior felony convictions.

As part of the investigation, three federal defendants were previously charged in United States v. Morgan et al. (19 CR 641).  In that case, Deshawn Morgan, 37, of Chicago, Darius Murphy, 20, of Chicago, and Demond Brown, 26, of Chicago were charged by indictment for their alleged role in a murder-for-hire conspiracy in 2018 that resulted in the murder of an individual.  All three defendants are in federal custody awaiting trial.

Donald Lee, 47, of Chicago, is charged in three indictments unsealed in the U.S. District Court in Chicago.  Lee and two other individuals—Jamar Spencer, 34, of Chicago, and Terrence Jenkins, 52, of Chicago—are charged with firearms offenses in United States v. Lee, et al. (20 CR 311).  Lee and Creavon Curry, 25, of Chicago, are charged with firearms offenses in United States v. Lee, et al. (20 CR 310). Lee is also charged with firearms and narcotics offenses in United States v. Lee (20 CR 312).

Two other federal defendants and Spencer are charged by indictment in United States v. Jones, et al. (20 CR 309).  That indictment charges Larry Jones, 39, of Broadview, Marsha Fountain, 48, of Plainfield, and Spencer with conspiracy to distribute heroin.

Enrique Fuentes-Ortiz, 45, of Chicago, is charged with firearms and narcotics offenses in United States v. Fuentes-Ortiz (20 CR 288).

As part of the investigation, three other federal defendants are charged in separate indictments with firearms offenses: Deshon George, 26, of Chicago (20 CR 289); Dante Dockett, 42, of Chicago (18 CR 710); and Derrius Burns, 27, of Chicago (19 CR 758).

Daniel Cerpa, 41, of Elmhurst, and Wilfredo Gomez, 48, of Chicago are charged in a fentanyl and heroin trafficking conspiracy in United States v. Cerpa, et al. (20 CR 295).

Marshaw Ranson, 40, of Chicago, is charged with fentanyl trafficking, as well as money laundering offenses in United States v. Ranson (20 CR 309).

Jesse Ochoa, 38, of Chicago, is charged with narcotics offenses in United States v. Ochoa (20 CR 297).

The firearms, narcotics, and money laundering charges in the indictments and complaint carry maximum penalties of between 10 years and life imprisonment. The murder-for-hire charges carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison, while a sentence of death is also possible.  Only the Attorney General of the United States has the authority to seek the death penalty.  If convicted, the court must impose reasonable sentences under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

The public is reminded that charges contain only accusations and are not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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