Federal prosecutors Wednesday charged more than three dozen members of a Chicago street gang with running a drug ring that sold crack cocaine, marijuana, heroin and the potentially lethal prescription painkiller fentanyl.
Fentanyl-laced heroin has been blamed for more than 200 overdose-related deaths across the eastern half of the country in recent months, at least 70 in the Chicago area.
But while much of the fentanyl seized in the investigation was packaged for individual use, none of the seized heroin was found to be mixed with fentanyl, authorities said. The legally produced painkiller is 80 times stronger than morphine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro alleged that the Mickey Cobras gang marketed its drugs to take advantage of the deadly heroin’s notoriety, selling products with names such as “Max Pain,” “Lethal Injection,” “Fear Factor,” “Drop Dead” and “Final Call.”
“They carry niche marketing to its extreme,” Shapiro said. “They sell branded heroin.”
None of the defendants had been charged with the fentanyl deaths, he said.
Police officer among those arrested
In a series of raids Wednesday, agents seized more than 100 kilograms of heroin, five firearms, four vehicles and an undetermined amount of cash, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. More than 400 federal and local law enforcement officers were involved.
The criminal complaint charged 47 members and associates of the gang with conspiracy to possess and distribute heroin, crack cocaine, marijuana and fentanyl.
By early afternoon, 30 people had been arrested, including a Chicago police officer. Tashika Sledge, 29, was accused of having a relationship with a gang leader and supplying information about police activity.
Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said many of the arrests took place at the Dearborn Homes public housing complex, a gang stronghold a few miles south of the Loop, but the alleged drug ring extended to nearby states.
The investigation involved wiretaps, search warrants and drug buys, authorities said. Before Wednesday’s arrests, authorities had seized or purchased 4 kilos of heroin, 309 grams of fentanyl, cash and six firearms.