23 facing federal narcotics charges after Chicago bust

CHICAGO (WITI) -- Twenty-three defendants are facing federal narcotics charges for their alleged roles in supplying and distributing wholesale quantities of heroin and cocaine in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, local and federal law enforcement officials announced Thursday, June 20th.

An investigation led by the Chicago Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration resulted in the charges, as well as accumulated seizures since last fall of approximately three pounds of heroin and nearly nine pounds of cocaine.  Additional quantities of heroin, crack cocaine, and ecstasy, as well as approximately tens of thousands of dollars, and two guns were seized this morning.

Chicago police, DEA agents, and other law enforcement partners early Thursday executed 11 search warrants upon nine residences and two vehicles in Chicago, and arrested at least 21 of the 23 defendants, in connection with the investigation that began in September 2012.

All 23 defendants were charged with possession with intent to distribute or distribution of narcotics offenses in an 18-count criminal complaint that was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court and unsealed following the arrests.  The defendants arrested began appearing this afternoon in U.S. District Court and remain in federal custody pending detention hearings scheduled for next week.

“This case is yet another example of the remarkable cooperation among the Chicago Police Department, DEA and other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, extending back decades,” said Gary S. Shapiro, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.  “While these defendants are not charged in this complaint with committing acts of violence or being involved in organized gang activity, we believe that bringing serious charges such as these is an effective tool in reducing violence in our communities – a goal we all share.”

Mr. Shapiro announced the charges with Garry F. McCarthy, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, and Jack Riley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“Removing narcotics markets from our communities is an essential part of our strategy to continue reducing violence and crime in Chicago,” said Superintendent McCarthy.  “These joint, long-term operations provide a real benefit for our communities and I would like to thank our law enforcement partners for their great work, particularly the men and women of the Chicago Police Department who played a major role in this case.”

The DEA’s Mr. Riley said: “This investigation, which was conducted by the DEA-led Chicago Strike Force, is representative of the commitment that is necessary to dismantle drug trafficking organizations.  I’m proud of the work done by these agents and officers, who worked tirelessly to achieve these results, and I’m confident that with our continued partnership, we will have increasing success.”

The investigation was conducted under the umbrella of the U.S. Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the Chicago High-Intensity Drug-Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA).  The Milwaukee County HIDTA, the DEA in Madison, Wis., the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Chicago, and Rockford Police Department, and the Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin State Police also assisted in the investigation.

According to the allegations in a 262-page complaint affidavit, the investigation determined that:

        Between November 2012 and April 2013, the Whiting brothers allegedly sold nearly a half-pound of heroin to a cooperating witness and an undercover agent.  During the same time, law enforcement seized an additional 2.5 pounds of heroin and nearly nine pounds of cocaine.

        On Feb. 22, 2013, Chicago police officers executed a search warrant at the residence of Ladell Smith, in the 300 block of East 125th Street, and seized more than a kilogram of powder and crack cocaine, more than three-quarters of a kilogram of heroin, a .40-caliber Glock handgun, a bullet-proof vest, and more than $20,000.  Most of the narcotics and the gun were found behind the radio in the dash board of a vehicle driven by Smith.

        The charges against all but five of the defendants carry a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5 million.

        Four defendants — Vazquez, Mireless, Shahbaz, and Perez— each face a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison and a $10 million fine, while Davis alone faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $2 million fine.

        If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

        The government is being represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Stephen P. Baker, Jeffrey D. Perconte, and Raj P. Laud.

        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.

        A list of the defendants follows (with best known ages and residences):