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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Illinois

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 26, 2017

Joint Federal and State Investigation Seizes More Than 115 Firearms; More Than 45 Members or Associates of Chicago Street Gang Charged

CHICAGO — More than 45 members or associates of the Gangster Two-Six Nation street gang are facing federal or state charges for their alleged roles in dealing guns and drugs on Chicago’s South Side and surrounding suburbs.

 

The joint federal and state investigation, dubbed “Operation Bunny Trap,” spanned more than two years and resulted in the seizures of approximately 118 firearms, including several assault rifles and shotguns, 25 rounds of ammunition, two ballistic vests, more than 800 grams of cocaine, more than 250 grams of fentanyl, and more than 280 grams of crystal meth. Authorities uncovered the alleged criminal activity through the use of undercover narcotics purchases and extensive surveillance. The probe was led by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and conducted under the umbrella of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), with assistance from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA).

 

Twenty-one defendants were charged in federal court, and most of them were arrested Thursday. Some of the federal defendants made initial court appearances Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole, while others will appear today.

 

Twenty-seven defendants are facing state charges. They will be making court appearances in Cook County Criminal Court.

 

The charges were announced by Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Kimberly M. Foxx, Cook County State’s Attorney; Celinez Nunez, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of ATF; and Eddie T. Johnson, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. The officials recognized the valuable assistance of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Chicago office of the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Chicago office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

 

Federal and local law enforcement agencies since late 2014 have been investigating alleged criminal activities by members and associates of the Gangster Two-Six Nation street gang. The gang is national in scope but particularly prevalent on the South Side of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, as well as Indiana, Wisconsin, Texas, Georgia and Kansas.

 

The investigation uncovered numerous illegal gun transactions, including two deals in January 2017 that occurred in the parking lot of a grocery store in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago. EDUARDO CASTRO sold three handguns to a confidential source who was cooperating with law enforcement, the complaints state. Castro was under law enforcement surveillance when he sold the firearms, the complaints state. Castro, 30, of Chicago, is charged with illegal possession of a firearm by a felon and dealing firearms without a license.

 

The investigation further revealed gun and drug transactions inside a pizza parlor in the Brighton Park neighborhood of Chicago. ANTHONY LOPEZ sold cocaine and a handgun to a confidential source who was cooperating with law enforcement, the complaints state. The deals occurred in a bathroom of the pizza parlor in January and February 2015, the complaints state. Lopez, 34, of Chicago, is charged with illegal possession of a firearm by a felon.

 

The charges describe illegal firearm transactions in several other neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side, including Chicago Lawn, Clearing, Chatham and Englewood, as well as the suburbs of Berwyn, Homewood and Alsip.

 

In addition to Castro and Lopez, the federal complaints charge 17 other defendants: JULIAN ALEJANDRO, 25, of Chicago: illegal possession of a firearm by a felon; VINCENT AVILA, 45, of Alsip: illegal possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute; HERIBERTO BALDERAS, 49, of Chicago: possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute; JOSEPH BUSTOS, 36, of Chicago: illegal possession of a firearm by a felon; JOSEPH CARDENAS, 43, of Chicago: possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute; FRANCISCO CARDOZA, 36, of Chicago: possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute; JAMES CORTEZ, 39, of Chicago: dealing firearms without a license; ARBNOR GASHI, 24, of Chicago: illegal possession of a firearm by a felon; JAMES KACHIROUBAS, 20, of Chicago: dealing firearms without a license; JUAN OCHOA, 58, of Alsip: possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute; JAMES PELIKAN, 29, of Chicago: illegal possession of a firearm by a felon; REY BENITEZ, 33, of Chicago: illegal possession of a firearm by a felon; JOHN REPEL, 37, of Chicago: possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and illegal possession of a firearm by a felon; ALEXANDER RIVERA, 26, of East Chicago, Ind.: illegal possession of a firearm by a felon; TARA ZAMBRANO, 24, of Griffith, Ind.: illegal possession of a firearm by a felon; JOSE CORTEZ, 39, of Orland Hills: knowingly possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number; FRANCISCO SANCHEZ, 50, of Chicago: illegal possession of a firearm by a felon.

 

Two other federal defendants were previously indicted in federal court in Chicago as part of this investigation: RICHARD GACHO, 43, of Burbank: illegal possession of a firearm by a felon; and DAVID SANTIAGO, 35, of Kansas: illegal possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. Gacho and Santiago have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.

 

The investigation was conducted under the umbrella of the OCDETF program, a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of OCDETF is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations.

 

The public is reminded that complaints contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Illegal possession of a firearm by a felon is punishable by up to ten years in federal prison. Dealing firearms without a license and knowingly possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number are each punishable by up to five years in federal prison. The maximum federal penalties vary for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric Pruitt, Timothy Storino, Andrew Dixon and Allison Ray are representing the government in the federal cases. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office is representing the government in the state cases.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime
Updated May 26, 2017