Four Chicago Men Charged with Federal Narcotics Violations for Operating Busy South Side Heroin Market
CHICAGO — Four Chicago men have been arrested on federal drug charges for allegedly operating a busy heroin trade in the Douglas neighborhood on the city’s South Side.
A joint federal and state investigation, led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Chicago Police Department, revealed that the defendants were selling heroin via a shared cellular phone number known as the “Vanna White Line.” Individuals wishing to purchase heroin would call the Vanna White Line to place an order, and the defendants would arrange to meet the customer to conduct the transaction, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The drug deals would often take place in the 3500 block of South Calumet Avenue and other parts of the Douglas neighborhood, the complaint states. Over a six-month period in 2016, there were approximately 193,720 calls to the Vanna White Line, according to the complaint.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Wheel of Fortune,” used wiretaps, controlled drug purchases and extensive surveillance to uncover the heroin operation. The probe was conducted under the umbrella of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA). The investigation also led to narcotics charges in state court against several other defendants.
The federal complaint was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Dennis A. Wichern, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the DEA; and Eddie Johnson, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Superintendent. The U.S. Marshals Service and the Hickory Hills Police Department provided valuable assistance.
The federal defendants, JOSEPH THOMPSON, 33, MARIO COOPER, 28, DEWAYNE BOLDEN, 26, and DEVANTE REED, 23, were arrested Thursday. They are each charged with conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with the intent to distribute. They appeared Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason and were ordered to remain in federal custody pending detention hearings next week.
According to the complaint, the Vanna White Line was selling approximately 130 grams of heroin every two days. The heroin was allegedly stored in an apartment in the 4700 block of South Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago.
The public is reminded that a complaint 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.
The federal drug conspiracy charge carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is represented in federal court by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott Edenfield and Cornelius Vandenberg.