24 charged in Chicago drug sales, money laundering operation

Chicago News

CHICAGO — An investigation of an illegal drug trafficking operation on Chicago’s West Side has led to federal charges against 24 purported gang members as well as the seizure of more than 30 guns and more than $1.3 million in cash, authorities said Friday.

The U.S. Department of Justice said “Operation Wicked Stones” revealed a drug trafficking operation in which two violent Chicago street gangs cooperated to distribute wholesale quantities of drugs and launder money. Among those charged were two suspected gang members who were already charged in a murder-for-hire conspiracy in which one person was killed in 2018.

The investigation was conducted by the Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Task Force and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, which is made up of investigators with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. It was focused on the activities of alleged high-ranking members of the Traveling Vice Lords and the Black P-Stone Nation.

Drugs seized included 6.7 kilograms of heroin, 17 kilograms of cocaine, 200 pounds of marijuana and more than a kilogram of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Among those arrested was James Harris, 51, of the south suburb of Berkeley, who was allegedly with another suspect trying to purchase 322 grams of heroin while he was wearing a Chicago Transit Authority uniform.

It wasn’t immediately known if Harris had a lawyer in the case.

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said during a news conference that the investigation was particularly important because it dealt a blow to two gangs that are suspected of being involved in some 30 homicides in the last nine years. He said that for years the gangs have “terrorized” the communities where they operate.

“I hope this investigation is seen as a warning to others who are thinking about carrying guns and selling drugs in Chicago’s neighborhoods,” Brown said. “We will find you and we will bring you to justice.”

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