Eight Gang Members And Associates Convicted of Drug Conspiracy
CHICAGO (AP) _ Eight street gang members and associates were convicted today of federal drug conspiracy charges in an investigation that used wiretaps and turncoats against an organization run like a big corporation.
Six high-ranking members of the Gangster Disciples, a gang ``tax collector″ and a former police officer who a defense attorney says followed her heart instead of her head were convicted.
The four highest ranking gang members also were convicted of conducting a criminal enterprise. The jury acquitted those four members on several lesser charges.
U.S. district court jurors reached their verdict late Tuesday after deliberating for five days and announced it today in open court.
Over three weeks, prosecutors described a gang thousands of members strong controlling street corners across the South Side, the suburbs and beyond in a multimillion-dollar drug conspiracy.
Their success in business depended on a corporate-style hierarchy, prosecutors said.
``The Gangster Disciples have been about drugs and power since the 1970s,″ assistant U.S. attorney Matthew Crowl said in closing arguments.
But defense attorneys urged jurors not to be swayed by the fact that their clients were gang members, arguing their clients did not know of a drug conspiracy.
Thirty-nine gang members and associates, including the reputed leader, incarcerated killer Larry Hoover, were indicted last summer as the result of a six-year probe called Operation Headache.
Two other trials are set for May 15 and Oct. 7.
Prosecutors say Hoover, 45, denied parole for the 14th time earlier last month, has kept an iron grip on the gang from prison since 1973.
Prosecutors played scores of tapes involving Hoover at the trial, including a series recorded by a tiny transmitter tucked into a visitor’s pass and worn unwittingly by Hoover’s visitors at an Illinois prison.
The gang boasted two boards of directors, one in prison and one on the street, which devised strict geographic territories for drug sales and dealt stringently with those who broke the rules, according to prosecutors.
One day a week, all drug proceeds went back to the gang _ on some days as much as $300,000, prosecutors said.
Vincent Martin, a gang member testifying for the prosecution, described a severe beating he received when gang superiors accused him of disrespect.
Former police officer Sonia Irwin was among the gang members convicted. Prosecutors say Irwin owned a seafood joint that served as a nucleus for gang drug operations.
Irwin, who has resigned from the police force, knew of the drug conspiracy and even rented luxury cars using her police discount for her boyfriend’s trips to visit Hoover in jail, prosecutors said.
Her attorney said his client’s only error was falling in love with one of the gang’s leaders.
Police say the indictments have hurt the gang, but it’s still in business.
``If you indicted the head of IBM or Xerox, the corporation is still functioning,″ said Donald Hilbring, commander of Chicago’s gang investigation unit. ``Nothing’s crumbled. We’re still fighting the Gangster Disciples. It’s had more of a chilling effect than anything else.″