High-Ranking Gang Members Among Several Defendants Arrested for Dealing Narcotics and Guns on Chicago’s South Side
CHICAGO — Several suspects, including high-ranking members of a Chicago street gang, are facing drug or gun charges for their alleged roles in dealing narcotics and firearms on the city’s South Side.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Cornerstone,” spanned more than two years and included seizures of distribution quantities of cocaine and heroin, as well as confiscations of firearms and cash proceeds from drug sales. Authorities uncovered the criminal activity through the use of wiretapped cellular phones, cooperating witnesses, controlled purchases of narcotics and guns, and extensive surveillance.
Several suspects were arrested today without incident. While attempting to arrest a suspect at a residence in Park Forest, two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation were wounded. The agents survived the shooting and their injuries are not believed to be life threatening. The suspect, MELVIN TORAN, 50, of Park Forest, was later found dead inside the home. Toran was a high-ranking member of the Black P-Stone Nation street gang. He was set to be charged in federal court with distributing heroin.
Several defendants will be charged in criminal complaints to be filed in federal court in Chicago. One defendant will be charged in a complaint filed in state court.
In addition to Toran, the investigation revealed that a number of the suspects are ranking members of the Black P-Stone Nation. One of them arranged for the sale of 225 grams of heroin for $15,700 on Nov. 6, 2015. Unbeknownst to him, the buyer was cooperating with law enforcement and had surreptitiously recorded both the negotiation – in a restaurant in the Back of the Yards neighborhood – and the transaction itself in a residence in Englewood.
The investigation also uncovered a heroin and cocaine operation being run out of a South Side clothing store. A source cooperating with law enforcement informed authorities that when picking up narcotics from the store, the normal practice was to purchase an item of clothing as a pretext. When paying for the clothing at the checkout counter, the owner of the store or one of the employees would bag the item of clothing and also pass over an additional bag containing the narcotics. In the summer of 2015, a cooperating source – working at the direction of investigators – purchased more than 1,000 grams of heroin from the store owner for $72,720.
In addition to the drug offenses, the investigation also involved a probe into federal gun violations. On Feb. 23, 2015, a .380-caliber firearm and chrome magazine was sold by a suspect for $500 to an individual who was cooperating with law enforcement. In a related case indicted last month, JAMES JONES, 41, of Chicago, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Chicago Police officers arrested Jones after a traffic stop on Dec. 7, 2015. In the backseat of Jones’ vehicle were an infant child and two loaded semiautomatic pistols hidden in a baby bag, according a complaint filed in December in Jones’ case. Jones has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bond while awaiting trial.
The investigation was conducted by a joint gang task force of the FBI and Chicago Police Department.
The arrests were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the FBI; Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s Attorney; and Eddie T. Johnson, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. The Park Forest Police Department provided assistance.
Assistant United States Attorneys Shoba Pillay, Sean J.B. Franzblau and Christine M. O’Neill will represent the government in the federal cases. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office will prosecute the state case.