24 gang members on Chicago's West Side charged with drug trafficking & firearms offenses

Located on Chicago's West Side, Austin is the second largest of Chicago's 77 community areas by population and its second-largest geographically. According to a study published in June 2019 by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the population of Austin is about 81 percent black and 13 percent Hispanic.

The same study showed that 40 percent of Austin households have a combined income of less than $25,000. This compares to 27 percent for the city of Chicago as a whole, and 19% for the 7 counties in northeastern Illinois serviced by CMAP.

The rise and fall of Austin on Chicago's West Side.

Twenty-four individuals were hit with federal charges on June 26, following an investigation targeting two street gangs active in the Austin neighborhood. These two gangs were targeted because they are largely responsible for firearms offenses, narcotics trafficking, and violence in the neighborhood.

Federal, state, and local law enforcement officers worked together in an investigation code-named “Operation Full Circle” to seize 34 firearms, more than 6.7 kilograms of heroin, more than 17 kilograms of cocaine, more than a kilogram of fentanyl (enough to kill around 400,000 people), approximately 50 grams of crack cocaine, 200 pounds of marijuana, and more than $1.3 million in cash and jewelry. The cash and jewelry were allegedly purchased with narcotics trafficking proceeds.

The investigation was conducted by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and the Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Task Force, in cooperation. The task forces are comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies who work in conjunction to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most dangerous drug trafficking organizations.

“Operation Wicked Stones” was the part of “Operation Full Circle” that focused on activities by alleged high-ranking members of the Wicked Town faction of the Traveling Vice Lords and the Black P-Stone Nation, both of which are Chicago-based street gangs. The indictments and a criminal complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court in Chicago accuse gang members of federal firearms, narcotics, and money laundering offenses. The investigation also resulted in federal charges filed earlier against three defendants, for their alleged role in a murder-for-hire conspiracy.

Many of the defendants were arrested on Thursday, June 25. Pretrial detention hearings, which are held in serious cases where the court has to decide whether to detain the defendant without bail, will be held next week in federal court in Chicago.

The firearms, narcotics, and money laundering charges carry maximum penalties ranging between 10 years and life imprisonment. The murder-for-hire charges carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison, with a possible death sentence. Only the U.S. Attorney General has the authority to seek the death penalty.