Feds charge 24 in major Austin gang investigation

Defendants facing charges related to firearms, narcotics trafficking and violence on West Side

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By Michael Romain


Twenty-four people have been charged as part of a federal and state investigation into two streets gangs in Austin, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois announced on June 26.

"During the investigation, dubbed 'Operation Full Circle,' federal, state, and local law enforcement officers worked together to seize 34 firearms, more than 6.7 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," the U.S. Attorney's Office explained in a statement.

The office said that the operation was conducted by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and the Chicago High Intensity Drug Task Force (HIDTA), which include local, state and federal law enforcement agencies working together to "identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations."

The office said that many of the defendants were arrested on June 25 and were scheduled to appear in federal court in Chicago for detention hearings next week. The federal criminal complaint includes a range of federal firearms, narcotics and money laundering charges, the office said.

Operation Full Circle also included Operation Wicked Stones, which focused on alleged crimes by high-ranking members of "both the Wicked Town faction of the Traveling Vice Lords and the Black P-Stone Nation street gangs."

In addition to 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," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

The complaint alleges that seven of the individuals charged comprised a "drug trafficking organization in which the defendants worked together to distribute wholesale quantities of heroin and cocaine on the West Side of Chicago," with two of the defendants also charged with firearms offenses.

James Harris, 51, and of Berkeley, and Patrick Turner, 52, of Bellwood, were named among seven federal defendants in United States v. Harris et. al. That complaint alleges that Harris was wearing his Chicago Transit Authority uniform when he met with Turner in April "to acquire 322 grams of heroin," which was seized from Harris outside of Turner's house in suburban Bellwood.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said that the firearms, narcotics and money laundering charges carry maximum penalties of between 10 years to life in prison. The murder-for-hire charges carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

Email: michael@austinweeklynews.com Twitter: AustinWeeklyChi

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