Law enforcement officers arrested almost two dozen people in a drug sweep in the Humboldt Park neighborhood last week following a yearlong sting investigation, according to federal prosecutors and court documents.
Members of the group sold heroin and fentanyl-laced heroin to undercover agents in approximately 80 hand-to-hand exchanges totaling thousands of dollars, according to an affidavit filed by a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent as part of the federal case against the group.
In addition to 18 men charged in federal court with conspiring to distribute illegal narcotics, four other people appeared in state court on other charges, according to a news release.
Law enforcement officers shut down the open-air drug market located in the 1000 block of North Monticello Avenue, according to the release.
Agents in the investigation, dubbed “Operation Monticello’s Revenge,” estimate the operation sold at least 27.8 pounds of heroin and at least 57.3 pounds of heroin laced with fentanyl or synthetic fentanyl between February 2019 and November 2019.
Heroin usually is sold in packets of less than 0.3 ounces, known as a blow, according to the affidavit, meaning that the drugs could have been sold in as almost 39,000 individual drug packets.
Drug sales by the group generated approximately $7,200 daily, according to the complaint. Based on calls intercepted by law enforcement, Kelvin Franklin, 28, discussed exchanging $12,621 for heroin from August to October 2019, the complaint said.
Franklin and Sam Howard, 32, were the street-level managers of the organization, according to the complaint. They coordinated the operation’s sales and personally sold illegal narcotics to undercover officers each over a dozen times.
Franklin also tried to acquire a handgun for the Monticello Avenue drug market in October 2019, the complaint said. Law enforcement officials seized the firearm after stopping a woman, who was supposed to deliver the handgun, for a broken taillight and a failure to make a complete stop at a stop sign. The handgun aspect of the probe remains under investigation.
Willie Tate, 45; Morrio Bonds, 37; and Antonio Lee, 39, were responsible for cutting the narcotics with additives and diluting substances well as for repackaging the drugs in aluminum foil and baggies for distribution, according to the charges. The other 13 people charged in federal court are accused of serving as street-level traffickers for the operation.
The 134-page complaint details numerous conversations recorded by undercover officers in intercepted phone calls during drug sales.
Howard asked the undercover officers if they were the police during a sale in April 2019, according to the complaint. Howard tested the officers by asking what kind of heroin the operation sells and how the drugs are usually packaged. An officer answered correctly and negotiated with Howard to buy three packs of heroin.
In an October 2019 text conversation between Franklin and Lee, Lee complained about not finding enough people who would work early in the morning. He told Franklin the drug market is “a real life job for me.”
There were approximately 2,424 narcotics-related local arrests, 227 firearm-related arrests and 19,241 narcotics-related calls to the Chicago Police Department in the area around the Monticello Avenue drug market from January 2017 to May 2020, according to the complaint.
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