A 45-year-old Evanston man is one of more than 30 people charged in a large heroin trafficking ring that operated in DuPage and Cook counties, authorities said.
Twenty-two of the 31 people charged in the sweep appeared in DuPage County court Wednesday morning, according to DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin.
In addition to drug conspiracy and sales charges, 17 individuals were charged with violating the state's new Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Law (RICO). Under the law, individuals facing specific charges—such as controlled substance trafficking, as is alleged in this case—will face much stiffer penalties if it can be proven that their individual illegal activities were part of a larger criminal conspiracy involving others and conducted over a period of time.
Donald Black, 45, of the 1000 block of Brown Avenue in Evanston, was among those charged in the sweep.
"Today’s sweep is yet another blow to drug dealers operating in DuPage County,” Berlin said in a statement. “Heroin peddlers are poisoning our communities every day. They ruin families. They cost people financially and in many cases cost people their lives either through overdose or through the violence that inevitably follows drug dealers."
The charges are the result of a six-month investigation by the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office, DuMeg (DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group), the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Illinois State Police (ISP) and more than a dozen local law enforcement agencies, Berlin said.
The investigation began in February after police recovered heroin during a search of a Carol Stream residence, according to a Chicago Tribune report.
During the investigation, police tapped 17 phone lines and spent thousands of hours conducting surveillance.
Police said the investigation led them to dozens of suspects—some of whom are still on the loose—who were responsible for the sale of $2,500 to $3,500 worth of heroin daily.
Authorities allege that Andres Garcia, 26, of Chicago, ran the operation using six cell phones—all of which were wiretapped by detectives. He is accused of distributing kilos of heroin to several lieutenants and a half-dozen major buyers, who sold the drug to customers across Chicago and DuPage County, according to theTribune.
DuPage County has experienced more than 70 heroin overdose deaths in the past 20 months, which averages out to nearly one per week, Berlin said.
"The charges brought against these 31 individuals should serve as a stiff deterrent to drug dealers—if you come to DuPage County, we will find you, you will be arrested and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Berlin said.
Special Agent Jack Riley of the Chicago Field Division of the DEA praised the law enforcement agencies that participated in the sweep.
"People need to wake up and realize that heroin is no longer just an inner-city problem,” Riley said in a statement. “It's here in the suburbs and kids are dying from it. Mexican Cartels are using street gangs to peddle this poison and they don't care what happens to the children or about the violence it breeds in the community.”For the full list of 31 people charged in the heroin bust, visit Downers Grove Patch.