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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Tennessee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 16, 2019

Chicago Based “Prince” of Mafia Insane Vice Lords Sentenced for Distributing Heroin

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – On May 15, 2019, the Honorable Curtis L. Collier, Senior United States District Judge, sentenced James Silas to 30 years followed by 5 years of supervised release for conspiring to distribute heroin.                     

Beginning in 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) conducted a series of court-authorized wiretaps on a number of telephones belonging to gang members as a component of an investigation into heroin distribution in and around Chattanooga.  Through these wiretaps, they discovered the involvement of Silas in this interstate conspiracy.  Silas was arrested in Illinois and brought to the Eastern District of Tennessee for trial.  On November 13, 2018, after a five-day jury trial, Silas, 51, of the Chicago suburb of Dolton, Illinois, was convicted as charged of conspiring to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin. 

At the sentencing hearing, witnesses testified that Silas was the leader of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords, a nationwide violent street gang.  As the “Prince” of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords, Silas used the gang to develop a network of heroin distributors in various cities, including Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, Atlanta and elsewhere.  Silas provided his subordinate gang members with what came to be known as “Chicago Gray,” a form of heroin that rapidly became highly desired among users.  These subordinates sold the heroin to other drug dealers as well as to addicts.  Witnesses testified that tens of thousands of dollars at a time were transported from Tennessee to Silas’ Illinois residence in payment for heroin.  Judge Collier ordered the defendant to forfeit $600,000, representing proceeds of Silas’ illegal drug trafficking. 

“The Eastern District of Tennessee is experiencing a surge in drug abuse and overdose related deaths,” said U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey.  “Today’s sentencing is an example of how our office is working with our law enforcement partners to prosecute those who are trafficking in and distributing these illegal drugs into our region, putting the citizens of East Tennessee in danger.”

“The Drug Enforcement Administration and our law enforcement partners remain committed to targeting interstate heroin traffickers and gang members that are contributing to the nation’s opioid epidemic,” said Brett R. Pritts, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Nashville District Office.  “I commend our law enforcement partners and the prosecutors for their extraordinary efforts in this case.” 

This investigation was conducted by the DEA, in conjunction with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, and with the assistance of local and federal law enforcement agencies in the Chicago area.    Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Wilson represented the United States at sentencing.   

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Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Contact: 
Sharry Dedman-Beard Public Information Officer 865.225.1671 sharry.dedman-beard@usdoj.gov
Updated May 20, 2019