U.S. Attorney’s Office Provides Update on Federal Prosecutions and Ongoing Strategies To Combat Violent Crime in Chicago
CHICAGO — With the summer months approaching, John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, today provided an update on federal prosecutions and strategies to combat violent crime in Chicago and the surrounding area.
“Anyone thinking of engaging in gun violence or trafficking dangerous narcotics in Chicago this summer needs to know that a federal prosecution could await them,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch. “A primary goal of our office is to reduce violent crime, and we will continue to use every available federal law enforcement tool to keep people safe this summer and beyond.”
The centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts continues to be Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN). Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders works together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. PSN is an evidence-based program that focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs to pursue lasting reductions in crime.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago also participates in a Department of Justice cross-jurisdictional strike force, led locally by U.S. Attorney Lausch, to disrupt illegal firearms trafficking and reduce gun violence. As part of the Chicago firearms trafficking strike force, the U.S. Attorney’s Office collaborates with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and other federal, state, and local law enforcement partners in the Northern District of Illinois and across the country to help stem the supply of illegally trafficked firearms and to identify patterns, leads, and potential suspects in violent gun crimes. The Chicago strike force’s efforts have been substantially enhanced by the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD’s) Gun Investigations Team.
“Firearms traffickers and straw purchasers enable violence,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch. “The cross-jurisdictional strike force has increased collaboration with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners and enhanced our longstanding efforts to hold accountable individuals or groups who illegally traffic firearms into Chicago.”
In addition to a sustained focus on prosecutions of federal firearm offenses, the U.S. Attorney’s Office endeavors to disrupt violent crime by seeking pre-trial detention for defendants who pose a danger to the community and pursuing appropriate prison sentences to deter dangerous individuals from continuing to cause violence in their communities.
Following up on activities most recently reported in November of last year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office remains active in fighting violent crime through enforcement actions, prosecutions, and community partnerships, as illustrated by the examples below from the past six months.
Enforcement Actions and Prosecution Activity
The U.S. Attorney’s Office works closely with U.S. law enforcement agencies, including ATF, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), and U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), to investigate and prosecute a variety of violent crimes. State and local partners in this effort include CPD, Illinois State Police (ISP), Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Rockford Police Department (RPD), and other police departments throughout northern Illinois.
The primary focus of these collaborative law enforcement efforts is to investigate and prosecute gangs and other groups of individuals who work in concert to commit violent crimes, including murders, attempted murders, robberies, carjackings, drug trafficking, and firearms trafficking. In addition, these enforcement efforts also identify for potential federal prosecution individual offenders who drive violence.
Firearm and violent crime investigations in Chicago have also been bolstered by an important tool from ATF – the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). NIBIN is the only national network that allows for the capture and comparison of ballistic evidence to aid in solving and preventing violent crimes involving firearms. NIBIN is a proven investigative and intelligence tool that can link firearms from multiple crime scenes, allowing law enforcement to quickly disrupt shooting cycles. Federal, state, and local law enforcement in Chicago have used NIBIN extensively to help solve violent crimes and prosecute trigger-pullers and other gun offenders.
Racketeering and Gang-Related Prosecutions
“Combating the unacceptable level of gang violence in Chicago has been and will continue to be a top priority in our office,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch.
- A member of a violent Chicago street gang was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison for engaging in a pattern of racketeering activity that included the murder of a rival gang member. LUIS CONTRERAS, of Chicago, admitted that the murder was committed to further the purposes of the Latin Saints, a criminal organization whose members engaged in drug dealing and violence on Chicago’s South Side. ATF, HSI, and CPD led the investigation.
Firearm Trafficking and Firearm Theft Prosecutions
“We are using every available federal law enforcement tool to continue to bring impactful cases that hold firearms traffickers accountable and reduce violent crime in Chicago,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch.
- DEVON DOW, of Chicago, was charged with trafficking individually manufactured “ghost guns” in Chicago. Dow allegedly sold seven “ghost guns” to an undercover law enforcement officer on the city’s South Side. The firearms were considered “ghost guns” because they contained no identifiable serial number and had been manufactured from parts collected from various sources. HSI and CPD led the probe.
- Five men were indicted for allegedly trafficking guns from St. Louis to Chicago. The charges accuse ROBERT NARUP, of Washington, Mo., of buying firearms at gun shows throughout the United States and illegally selling them to JEROME BOYKIN, of St. Louis, Mo. Boykin then allegedly brought the guns to Chicago and sold them to ROGELIO MANCERA, of Schaumburg, Ill., in exchange for marijuana. The charges accuse Mancera, RODOLFO ORTEGA of Chicago, and HECTOR CHACON of Chicago, with selling the guns on the streets of Chicago. ATF and CPD’s Gun Investigations Team led the probe, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri.
- A federal jury convicted JOSEPH GHANDOUR, of Glenview, Ill., of illegally selling a “ghost gun” to a convicted felon in a suburban Chicago grocery store parking lot. Unbeknownst to Ghandour, the felon to whom he sold the rifle was cooperating with law enforcement. FBI investigated.
- A man was indicted on firearm charges for allegedly straw purchasing 27 handguns from suburban Chicago stores. MATTHEW JAMAAL JOHNSON, of Dolton, Ill., allegedly falsely certified on federal forms that he was the actual buyer, when, in reality, Johnson purchased the guns on behalf of another individual. ATF and CPD led the probe.
Carjacking and Other Violent Crime Prosecutions
- A federal jury convicted a central Illinois man in the murder of McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Keltner and the attempted murder of three other federal law enforcement officers. Keltner, who was serving as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal, was fatally wounded on March 7, 2019, when law enforcement attempted to execute a warrant for FLOYD E. BROWN’s arrest at a Rockford hotel. Brown fired multiple shots at a Deputy U.S. Marshal and two Special Deputy U.S. Marshals who were attempting to take Brown into custody. Brown then jumped out of a hotel window and fired a shot that fatally struck Special Deputy Keltner. FBI led the murder investigation, with assistance from ATF, U.S. Marshals Service, McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, Rockford Police Department, Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office, Bloomington Police Department, Loves Park Police Department, Lincoln Police Department, Logan County Sheriff’s Office, and ISP.
- ANGELO STANTON, of Chicago, was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison for violently robbing more than a dozen Chicago stores. Stanton carried out takeover-style heists in which he pointed a handgun at employees and demanded cash from the register or safe. He fired shots in five heists, wounding two store employees. The probe was led by FBI and CPD, with assistance from ISP and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
- A federal judge sentenced two men to federal prison for stealing expensive watches and jewelry at gunpoint from a jewelry store in Hinsdale, Ill. TOBIAS DIGGS, of Chicago, and JOSHUA MCCLELLAN, of Oak Lawn, Ill., took more than $400,000 in merchandise, including watches by Frederique Constant, Patek Phillipe, and Tudor. FBI investigated, with assistance from the Hinsdale Police Department, Oak Lawn Police Department, FBI’s Cellular Analysis Survey Team (CAST), and the Felony Investigation Assistance Team (FIAT), a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement task force in the western suburbs of Chicago.
- AARON CLARK, of Chicago, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in robberies that targeted cell phone stores in the suburbs of Chicago. Clark brandished a gun during the heists and threatened to shoot store employees. ATF and CPD led the probe, with assistance from the Calumet City Police Department, Peotone Police Department, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and Will County State’s Attorney’s Office.
- OCIE BANKS, JR., of Berwyn, Ill., was charged with robbing cell phone stores in the Chicago suburbs. Banks allegedly brandished a firearm in three robberies and one attempted robbery. FBI investigated.
- JAMAR JARVIS, of Chicago, was sentenced to ten years in prison for carjacking a vehicle at gunpoint in the city’s Edgewater neighborhood. FBI and CPD investigated, with assistance from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Illegal Possession of Firearms Prosecutions
“Any felon thinking about picking up a gun in Chicago this summer 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.
- Three convicted felons involved in an exchange of gunfire in a store parking lot in a Chicago suburb were indicted on federal firearm violations. The trio had previously been convicted of felony offenses and were prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms. ATF led the investigation, with assistance from the Calumet City Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service, South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force, South Suburban Emergency Response Team, Cook County Sheriff’s Office, and Illinois State Police.
- Convicted felon CIPRIANO RIVERA, of Villa Park, Ill., was sentenced to nine years in federal prison for illegally possessing a loaded handgun near an alley in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. ATF and CPD conducted the investigation.
- WILLIE WARE, of Riverdale, Ill., and KEVON REED, of Chicago, were arrested after being charged with illegally possessing firearms on a CTA train car. FBI and CPD investigated, with assistance from ATF.
- LAVOYCE BAYS, of Markham, Ill., was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for illegally possessing a firearm and ammunition, and shooting a man at a gas station after a dispute. ATF and the Markham Police Department investigated.
- TERRANCE WEATHERSBY, of Chicago, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for illegally possessing a loaded handgun equipped with a high-capacity magazine on a street in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. ATF and CPD investigated.
- A felon was sentenced to seven years in prison for illegally possessing a loaded semiautomatic handgun at a block party on the South Side of Chicago. ANTHONY CARR, of Chicago, tossed the gun into a large outdoor tent before Chicago Police officers apprehended him. CPD and ATF investigated.
- BERNARD HARVEY, JR., of Indianapolis, Ind., pleaded guilty to a firearm charge, admitting to illegally possessing a semi-automatic rifle at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Chicago. FBI and CPD investigated, with assistance from the VA Police Department.
- KEYZOE WILLIAMS, of Chicago, was arrested for allegedly illegally possessing a loaded machine gun in Chicago. Williams possessed a handgun equipped with a conversion device, also known as an “auto sear” or “Glock switch,” which turned the firearm into a machine gun capable of automatically firing more than one shot with a single trigger pull. ATF investigated, with assistance from ISP, CPD, Willowbrook Police Department, DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office, and DuPage Metropolitan Emergency Response and Investigations Team.
Significant Drug Trafficking Prosecutions
The U.S. Attorney’s Office targets traffickers who bring illegal drugs into Illinois from other states or countries, with a focus on organizations or individuals who use guns, violence, and threats of violence to protect and promote their illegal businesses. The U.S. Attorney’s Office works directly with state’s attorney’s offices in Cook County and throughout the district to ensure that individuals trafficking drugs are charged with appropriate offenses in either federal or state court.
Public safety is also being threatened by unprecedented levels of opioid misuse and overdose. Opioids are a class of highly addictive drugs that includes heroin, fentanyl, and prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. U.S. Attorney Lausch in November 2019 created an Opioid Task Force for the purpose of combatting the growing number of unlawful distributions of controlled substances fueling the nation’s opioid crisis. This effort includes prosecuting the leaders of traditional drug trafficking organizations, as well as rogue health care providers, pharmacists, and others who contribute to the misuse of opioids. “We are actively attacking the opioid crisis from all investigative and prosecutorial angles,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch.
- ADÁN CASARRUBIAS SALGADO, of Guerrero, Mexico, was extradited from Mexico on a federal indictment charging him with distributing heroin in the Chicago area in 2014 and laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds. DEA investigated.
- Ten alleged members or associates of a Chicago street gang were charged with conspiring to distribute heroin and cocaine on the West Side of Chicago. The investigation, led by HSI and CPD, used undercover and covert surveillance operations and resulted in the seizure of multiple kilograms of suspected heroin, some of which was laced with fentanyl, and cocaine, as well as four rifles, four handguns, a MAC-10 submachine gun, a shotgun, and more than 450 rounds of ammunition. This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation.
- A central Illinois man was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison for attempting to traffic cocaine in Chicago. TEKOA Q. TINCH, of Bloomington, Ill., attempted to buy a kilogram of cocaine from an undercover law enforcement officer in the city’s Little Village neighborhood. DEA, ATF, and CPD led the investigation.
- A federal grand jury charged GILBERTO ALMANZA, of North Chicago, Ill., with distributing approximately 46 kilograms of cocaine to an individual who, unbeknownst to Almanza, was cooperating with law enforcement. Police later conducted a court-authorized search of Almanza’s residence and discovered approximately two kilograms of cocaine and a loaded handgun, the charges allege. DEA conducted the probe.
- A federal jury convicted a suburban Chicago man of laundering illegal narcotics proceeds on behalf of drug traffickers in Mexico. HUAZHI HAN, of North Riverside, Ill., schemed with an individual in Mexico to facilitate the receipt of more than $1 million in narcotics proceeds in the United States. DEA investigated, with assistance from IRS-CI, CPD, HSI, and the U.S. Department of Treasury, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
- A man was arrested after law enforcement seized fentanyl and a “pill press” from his suburban Chicago residence. TROY CLARK, of Calumet City, Ill., also allegedly possessed other equipment that can be used to manufacture counterfeit pills, including a funnel, metal press, and dye pieces. DEA, USPIS, and CPD led the probe, with assistance from the Calumet City Police Department.
- An inmate in a state prison in Arizona was charged with brokering the sale of fentanyl and methamphetamine in Illinois. MANUEL GARCIA allegedly coordinated with a buyer outside of the prison to purchase methamphetamine and fentanyl for delivery to the Chicago area. DEA investigated.
The PSN program continues to invest resources in violence-prevention initiatives.
The PSN Chicago Task Force, which includes members from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, CPD, ATF, IDOC, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and academic researchers, is designed to address gun violence in certain neighborhoods in Chicago with the highest violent crime rates through aggressive prosecution of violent offenders, using all available federal statutes. The task force, which in 2018 expanded to include the city of Rockford, establishes a working relationship between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, CPD, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, RPD, and Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office.
The PSN Task Force dedicates federal grant funds to support crime prevention programs that are aligned with law enforcement’s strategy to address gun violence. Currently, PSN grant funds support Camp Hope, a crime prevention program in Rockford for at-risk juveniles who have experienced or witnessed domestic violence; Choose to Change, a program created by Children’s Home & Aid and Youth Advocate Programs in Chicago to engage youth who are heavily impacted by violence and trauma by connecting them with intensive advocate and wraparound support services and trauma-informed therapy; and Readi Chicago’s Reentry Program, a pilot program in Chicago jointly developed by Heartland Alliance and IDOC to provide both pre-release and post-release services for those returning home from prison to reduce gun violence and recidivism among returning citizens.
Members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office have also participated in offender notification meetings and youth outreach forums. Even during the current COVID-19 pandemic, these meetings and forums are still being held, including in a virtual environment, to maintain the outreach to former offenders. Offender notification meetings provide an opportunity for individuals who have been convicted of a state or federal offense to make an informed choice not to engage in further criminal activity. Researchers at Arizona State University found that the forums in Chicago have a positive influence on the offenders’ perception of police and help create an understanding that criminal activity results in a higher risk to return to prison. Researchers at Yale University found that ex-offenders who attend an offender notification meeting in Chicago are 30% less likely to commit a new offense than those who did not attend a meeting. The quarterly youth forums assist teenagers to identify a path beyond criminal activity. The youth forums are conducted in partnership with CPD, the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, and local social service agencies.