U.S. Attorney’s Office Announces Progress in Making Communities Safer Through Multiple Targeted Strategies to Combat Violent Crime
CHICAGO — John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, today announced progress in combatting violent crime through a series of targeted strategies as part of the Department of Justice’s revitalized Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative.
One year ago, the Department of Justice announced the revitalization and enhancement of PSN, an evidence-based program that the Department made the centerpiece of its violent crime reduction strategy. In the Northern District of Illinois, U.S. Attorney Lausch has employed the enhanced PSN program to tackle the full spectrum of violent crime issues facing the district. Northern District of Illinois prosecutors target criminal organizations, leading to prosecutions of complex RICO, narcotics, and drug trafficking enterprises. The PSN program also identifies criminals with the most violent backgrounds and removes them from the community through prosecution of individual violent crime, drug, and firearm possession cases. Resources are also invested in local prevention and reentry programs that seek to implement lasting reductions in crime through community engagement.
“A fundamental duty of our government is to keep people safe, and one of our primary goals as federal prosecutors is to reduce violent crime, particularly in large urban areas like Chicago,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch. “As part of DOJ’s revitalized PSN program, we have worked closer than ever with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to increase prosecutions of trigger-pullers, drug traffickers, carjackers, and those who illegally use and possess firearms. We will use every available federal law enforcement tool to reduce the unacceptable level of violent crime and help keep our citizens safe.”
The PSN program has enabled the U.S. Attorney’s Office to sustain and expand upon its recent increase in the prosecution of violent crime and gun offenders. For example, during each of the last two fiscal years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged more federal firearms offenses than were charged in any prior fiscal year for more than a decade. Crime statistics from the Chicago Police Department (CPD) reveal significant reductions in violent crime in Chicago in the past year. Through Oct. 31, 2018, Chicago has seen 107 fewer murders (a reduction of 19%) and 387 fewer shootings (a reduction of 16%) compared to 2017.
“While we are making progress, we realize that a great deal of work remains to be done to attack our stubborn violent crime problem in Chicago,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch.
Through enforcement actions and community partnerships, the U.S. Attorney’s Office works to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone.
Over the past year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has worked tirelessly with its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute criminal organizations and individuals who commit violent crime across the Chicago area. The office works closely with U.S. law enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) to investigate and prosecute violent offenders. Our key state and local partners in this effort include the Chicago Police Department (CPD), the Illinois State Police (ISP), the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and numerous county and local police departments and municipalities throughout the district.
“The thriving partnership we have with federal, state, and local law enforcement is essential to our collaborative efforts to combat violent crime,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch. “Our goal for the remainder of 2018 and into 2019 is to continue to bring to justice those offenders who commit drug, gun, and violent offenses in our neighborhoods.”
During the past year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted hundreds of defendants for violent crimes, firearms offenses, and drug trafficking, including:
- Last month, a joint federal and state investigation resulted in racketeering and murder charges against five alleged members of a Chicago street gang faction known as the Goonie Boss. The charges allege that Goonie members and their associates terrorized the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side and were responsible for eleven murders, six attempted murders, and two assaults. The U.S. Attorney’s Office worked closely in the multi-year investigation with the FBI, CPD, and Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
- In February 2018, more than 30 alleged high-ranking members of the Latin Kings street gang were charged with participating in a racketeering conspiracy in a case investigated by the FBI, CPD, and several other state and local law enforcement agencies under the umbrella of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The indictment charged numerous acts of violence, including six murders and three attempted murders in Chicago and the surrounding area.
Firearm Trafficking and Firearm Theft Prosecutions
- A Kentucky man and two Illinois men were charged in May 2018 in an alleged scheme to purchase dozens of guns in Kentucky and illegally re-sell them in Chicago. Many of the guns were later recovered by law enforcement during criminal investigations. ATF, CPD, and ISP participated in the investigation as part of a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force.
- In January 2018, an Indiana man was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for bringing firearms into Illinois from Indiana and illegally selling them.
- One defendant was sentenced in May 2018 to seven and a half years in federal prison, while another was sentenced in November 2017 to eleven years, in connection with the theft of more than 100 guns from a cargo train. The investigation, led by ATF and CPD, resulted in the conviction of eleven individuals involved in the theft.
- Two Chicago men were indicted last month by a federal grand jury in Memphis for stealing 366 firearms from a shipping facility in Tennessee and transporting them to the Chicago area. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago provided assistance to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Memphis, ATF, the FBI’s Cargo Theft Task Force, the Midlothian, Ill., Police Department, and the Memphis Police Department.
- After an investigation by CPD, ATF, and FBI, a Chicago woman was indicted last month for allegedly straw purchasing handguns in Indiana on behalf of a convicted felon in Chicago, whom the woman knew could not legally purchase or possess a firearm.
- Federal carjacking and gun charges were brought against two teenagers in March 2018, after they allegedly stole a sport-utility vehicle at gunpoint in the Goose Island neighborhood of Chicago. The case was investigated by the Chicago 11th District Violent Crimes Task Force, which consists of agents and officers from the FBI, CPD, ATF, DEA, and HSI.
- Based on work by CPD and ATF, federal charges were brought in April 2018 against a Chicago man for allegedly taking multiple vehicles at gunpoint in various neighborhoods of Chicago. In the indictment, the defendant was charged with five counts of carjacking or attempted carjacking, and five counts of using, brandishing, or discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.
Illegal Possession of Firearm Prosecutions
As part of PSN, the U.S. Attorney’s Office works directly with local police and state prosecutors to identify offenders in the most violent areas in our district, including neighborhoods on the west and south sides of Chicago. The office adopts many of these cases for federal prosecution. As noted above, over the past two years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has increased its prosecution of illegal possession of firearms cases. More than 195 individuals were charged with federal gun crimes in Fiscal Year 2018, according to preliminary data.
“If you are a felon and you are caught with a gun in one of the high-crime neighborhoods in Chicago or elsewhere in the district, you should expect to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and face the possibility of going to federal prison for a long time,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch.
Examples of felon-in-possession sentencings in federal court over the past year include:
- DEMONE RULE, of Chicago, and ALBERT DOWTHARD, of Rockford, were deemed Armed Career Criminals after previously being convicted of several felonies. Rule, whose criminal history includes convictions for drug trafficking and attempted murder, was sentenced to 19 years in federal prison, while Dowthard, who was previously convicted of multiple domestic battery offenses, was sentenced to 15 years.
- RICARDO BURGOS, previously convicted of aggravated battery of a peace officer and aggravated robbery, was also an aspiring rapper known as “Nation.” Police arrested him in Chicago in possession of a firearm that Burgos brandished while filming a rap video. The same .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol had been used in a shooting just two days prior to his arrest. Burgos was sentenced in January 2018 to 15 years in federal prison.
- MAURICE WALKER, of Chicago, was sentenced in August 2018 to more than six years in federal prison for illegally possessing a loaded handgun equipped with a laser sight. Walker was arrested after initially attempting to flee from police.
- JAMES HARRISON, a convicted felon from Chicago and a member of a street gang, was sentenced in August 2018 to more than six years in federal prison for illegally possessing an AR-15 assault rifle and a handgun with a laser sight and extended magazine.
- TARNCHE HULL, of Chicago, was sentenced in January 2018 to more than five years in federal prison for illegally possessing a loaded handgun. Hull had previously been convicted of crimes more than 20 times, including three firearm-related convictions.
- QUINTREL MOORE, of Chicago, was sentenced in November 2017 to more than five years in federal prison for illegally possessing a loaded semiautomatic pistol while on parole for a state drug conviction. Tests performed by ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) showed that the gun was linked to three separate shootings within seven months, all occurring near the location of Moore’s arrest in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago.
Last month, the Department of Justice announced that it is funding five additional violent crime prosecutors in the Northern District of Illinois. With these additional resources, U.S. Attorney Lausch is creating a Gun Crimes Prosecution Team to enhance the prosecution of illegal firearm cases in certain police districts in Chicago. Working collaboratively with federal and local law enforcement, the new unit will focus on charging Chicago’s most dangerous criminals quickly after arrest, endeavoring to disrupt the cycle of violence in the neighborhoods most in need.
“We welcome the additional resources from the Department of Justice to strengthen our efforts to reduce violent crime,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch.
Narcotics Trafficking Prosecutions
The U.S. Attorney’s Office targets traffickers who bring illegal drugs into Illinois from other states or countries, with a particular focus on traffickers who use guns, violence and threats of violence to protect and promote their illegal businesses. The office also investigates and prosecutes large-scale dealers who distribute powerful opioids like fentanyl and heroin. Many of these investigations are conducted by OCDETF and HIDTA task forces, which involve teams of law enforcement agents and officers from multiple federal agencies and police departments working together to combat drug trafficking and its attendant violent crime in the Chicago area. In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office often works directly with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to ensure that individuals selling drugs on the streets are charged with appropriate offenses in either federal or state court.
Recent examples of federal narcotics prosecutions include:
- Eleven defendants were charged in March 2018 with trafficking fentanyl, heroin and cocaine in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood on the South Side. The OCDETF investigation involved extensive undercover and surveillance work, and resulted in the seizure of distribution quantities of the narcotics.
- A federal investigation into drug and gun trafficking in the west suburbs of Chicago led to charges in March 2018 against six defendants. Authorities seized four military-style assault rifles, three handguns, and several hundred rounds of ammunition. The U.S. Attorney’s Office worked closely with the FBI, CPD, Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department, Maywood Police Department, Illinois State Police, and Johnsburg Police Department.
- More than 12 individuals, including the owner of an auto body shop where drugs were stashed, were charged in April 2018 as part of an OCDETF investigation into alleged drug sales in Chicago’s Little Village and West Garfield Park neighborhoods. Authorities seized distribution quantities of heroin, fentanyl, MDMA pills and cocaine, as well as 12 illegal firearms, including an assault rifle.
- An Elmwood Park man was charged in May 2018 with importing fentanyl from China to sell in the Chicago area. This OCDETF investigation was led by DEA, FBI, and USPIS.
- The U.S. Attorney’s Office partnered with HSI for the June 2018 arrest of a man who allegedly sold a kilogram of fentanyl to an undercover law enforcement officer near Midway Airport on Chicago’s Southwest Side.
- More than 50 defendants were charged in June 2018 as part of a joint federal and state investigation into heroin and fentanyl sales on the West Side of Chicago. As part of the probe, law enforcement shut down two open-air drug markets in the city’s North Lawndale and East Garfield Park neighborhoods. Authorities seized three kilograms of heroin, a kilogram of cocaine, 230 grams of fentanyl, and eight illegal firearms, including a semi-automatic assault rifle with a drum barrel magazine.
- An investigation by the Rockford Area Violent Gang Task Force (RAVGTF) and the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Police led to drug conspiracy charges in July 2018 against six individuals for alleged heroin and crack cocaine sales in the Rockford area. RAVGTF includes members of the FBI and Rockford, Loves Park, and Freeport Police Departments.
- An OCDETF investigation led to federal or state charges in August 2018 against nine individuals in connection with alleged cocaine and heroin sales in Joliet. The charges allege that the leader of this drug trafficking organization is affiliated with the Joliet faction of the Black Gangster Disciples street gang.
- Two Chicago pharmacy technicians were charged in August 2018 as part of a DEA investigation with stealing 56,000 pills of Hydrocodone and selling them for a profit.
- Federal drug charges were brought in August 2018 against seven individuals for alleged heroin and cocaine sales in Freeport. The investigation was jointly conducted by the RAVGTF and the Stateline Area Narcotics Team (SLANT), which is a task force led by ISP and the Freeport Police Department.
- The leader of a network of drug dealers was sentenced in September 2018 to 35 years in federal prison for trafficking heroin and cocaine to Chicago from California aboard Amtrak trains.
- A CPD and HIDTA task force investigation led to federal or state charges in September 2018 against more than 25 individuals for allegedly selling fentanyl, fentanyl-laced heroin, or heroin in Chicago. The federal charges describe drug sales in the Tri-Taylor, Humboldt Park and West Garfield Park neighborhoods on the city’s West Side, as well as deals in the Chatham neighborhood on the South Side.
- A dozen defendants were charged last month with trafficking heroin on the West Side of Chicago in connection with an OCDETF investigation. During the probe, law enforcement seized one and a half kilograms of heroin, a half kilogram of crack cocaine, more than $892,000 in illicit cash proceeds, and a stolen handgun.
The revitalized PSN program continues to invest resources in many violence-prevention initiatives. Members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office participate in parolee forums and youth outreach forums.
The monthly parolee forums, also known as offender notification meetings, rotate among various Chicago neighborhoods. Recent parolees who have moved back into the neighborhoods are offered the chance to make an informed choice not to engage in further criminal activity. Researchers at Yale University found that ex-offenders who attend a forum are 30% less likely to commit a new offense than those who did not attend a forum.
The quarterly youth forums assist children aged 13-17 to identify a path other than gang membership. The youth forums are conducted in partnership with CPD, the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, and the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which tracks the progress of the children to assess results.
To learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods, visit https://www.justice.gov/psn.