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Press Release

Leader of Violent Chicago Street Gang Convicted on Federal Racketeering Charge

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

CHICAGO — A federal jury today convicted the leader of a Chicago street gang on racketeering conspiracy, firearm, and drug charges for participating in a criminal organization that murdered rivals and violently protected a drug-dealing operation on the West Side of Chicago.

The jury convicted DONALD LEE, 40, of Chicago, after a two-month trial in U.S. District Court in Chicago.  Lee was a leader of the Wicked Town faction of the Traveling Vice Lords street gang.  The jury also convicted TORANCE BENSON, 30, of Chicago, a member of the gang, on racketeering conspiracy and firearm charges.

Lee faces a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison, while Benson’s convictions carry a maximum potential sentence of life.  U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin did not immediately set sentencing dates.

Lee and Benson were among 13 defendants charged as part of a multi-year investigation into the gang’s criminal activities.  The other eleven defendants pleaded guilty prior to trial and are awaiting sentencing.  The investigation resulted in the seizures of more than 45 firearms, approximately 1,000 rounds of ammunition, approximately 17 kilograms of cocaine, approximately seven kilograms of heroin, and approximately 100 grams of crack cocaine.

Evidence at trial revealed that the Wicked Town gang engaged in numerous acts of violence, including at least 19 murders, 19 attempted murders, several armed robberies, and assaults.  The gang used threats and intimidation to prevent victims and witnesses from cooperating with law enforcement.  Wicked Town members regularly promoted their violent enterprise on social media, posting comments, photos, and videos to proclaim membership in the gang, taunt rival gang members, and boast about murders and other acts of violence.  The gang operated primarily in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, where members maintained “trap houses” to store firearms and illegal narcotics, including cocaine and heroin.

The jury found that Lee committed three murders and supplied the firearms used in three other killings, while Benson committed one murder and three attempted murders. 

The jury convictions were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Jeffrey L. Matthews, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and David Brown, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.  Substantial assistance in the investigation was provided by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation Division, Illinois State Police, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Cook County Sheriff’s Office, and the Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program (HIDTA)

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force operation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against alleged criminal networks.

 The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John D. Mitchell, Jimmy L. Arce, Meghan C. Morrissey, and Beth E. Palmer.

Updated November 15, 2022

Topics
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses