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Press Release

13 Defendants Charged in Second Phase of Federal Investigation Targeting Heroin Trafficking on West Side of Chicago

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois

CHICAGO — Thirteen individuals are facing criminal charges as part of the second phase of a federal investigation into heroin trafficking on the West Side of Chicago.

The 13 new defendants allegedly participated in a drug trafficking operation that was responsible for distributing at least 25 kilograms of heroin to individual customers in Chicago from at least February 2019 until earlier this month, when law enforcement shut down the operation.  The street-level sales occurred at two open-air drug markets in the city’s Austin neighborhood. 

The charges are the result of the second phase of “Operation Dirty Ice,” a multi-agency investigation led by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation Division, and Chicago Police Department.  The first phase of the probe led to drug conspiracy charges against eleven other defendants in October 2018.  Operation Dirty Ice was conducted in collaboration with the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), whose principal mission is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations.

During the probe, authorities seized three kilograms of heroin, 500 grams of crack cocaine, approximately $1.1 million in illicit cash proceeds, five handguns, and a rifle. 

A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago charges the 13 new defendants with conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with the intent to distribute.  All of the defendants have made initial appearances in federal court in Chicago.

The charges were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI; Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; and David Brown, Superintendent of CPD.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly Guzman and Kaitlin Klamann represent the government.

The newly charged defendants are CLIFTON COLEMAN, 45, of Westchester; TARRENCE WATSON, 45, of Bellwood; BERNARD ROWSEY, 42, of Chicago, and his brother, RODNEY ROWSEY, 41, of Chicago; CHARLES ARMSTRONG, 55, of Chicago; DEXTER JONES, 48, of Chicago; VERNON EDWARDS, 49, of Chicago; LAVERIC DAWSON, 36, of Chicago; KEITH MOORE, 49, of Oak Park; ERIC BERNARD, 53, of Chicago; KENNETH BOWDRY, 57, of Chicago; BRYAN LANDFAIR, 58, of Chicago; and MORRIS SIMMONS, 59, of Chicago.

According to the charges, Coleman led a drug trafficking organization that obtained and distributed 800 to 1,000 grams of heroin in the Chicago area on a weekly basis.  Coleman’s crew used two stash houses to mix the heroin with other substances, including sleeping pills, in preparation for street-level distribution, the complaint states.  During the investigation, law enforcement observed numerous hand-to-hand purchases of heroin at the two open-air drug markets, located near the intersections of Chicago and Lavergne Avenues, and Chicago and Pine Avenues.  Police also coordinated undercover purchases of heroin at the markets, the complaint states.

The public is reminded that a complaint only contains a charge and is not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated July 14, 2020

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