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updated: 5/30/2013 10:46 PM

Elgin police arrest 22 in drug sweep

Cops say one was a heroin ringleader

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  • Elgin Police Sgt. Rick Santiago questions a suspect Thursday during a drug sweep.

       Elgin Police Sgt. Rick Santiago questions a suspect Thursday during a drug sweep.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Curtis R. Thornton

      Curtis R. Thornton

  • Elgin Police Sgt. Rick Santiago, center, works his way around a house during a drug sweep conducted Thursday. About 80 people with charges related to drug sales were targeted in the yearlong investigation.

       Elgin Police Sgt. Rick Santiago, center, works his way around a house during a drug sweep conducted Thursday. About 80 people with charges related to drug sales were targeted in the yearlong investigation.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • About 80 people with charges related to drug sales were targeted in a yearlong investigation by Elgin police.

       About 80 people with charges related to drug sales were targeted in a yearlong investigation by Elgin police.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin Police Officer Eric Echevarria has a suspect in custody during a drug sweep conducted Thursday. The yearlong investigation targeted about 80 people with charges related to drug sales, police said.

       Elgin Police Officer Eric Echevarria has a suspect in custody during a drug sweep conducted Thursday. The yearlong investigation targeted about 80 people with charges related to drug sales, police said.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Police secured at least $380 worth of heroin confiscated during a sweep Thursday by Elgin police.

       Police secured at least $380 worth of heroin confiscated during a sweep Thursday by Elgin police.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin Police Officer Eric Echevarria, from left, Sgt. Rick Santiago and Officer Will Yucaitis plan their route before a drug sweep Thursday. The yearlong investigation targeted about 80 people with charges related to drug sales, police said.

       Elgin Police Officer Eric Echevarria, from left, Sgt. Rick Santiago and Officer Will Yucaitis plan their route before a drug sweep Thursday. The yearlong investigation targeted about 80 people with charges related to drug sales, police said.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Elgin Police Drug Sweep

 
 

The ringleader of a heroin-dealing crew based in Elgin's Poplar Creek neighborhood was arrested Thursday during a police drug sweep that targeted about 65 people in Elgin, ranging from first-time offenders to career criminals, police said.

Elgin police, in cooperation with FBI, Kane County Sheriff's deputies and U.S. Immigrations Customs and Enforcement officers, arrested 22 individuals Thursday on charges related to the sale and distribution of illegal drugs, Elgin Police Cmdr. Glenn Theriault said.

The Kane County State's Attorney's office also assisted in the sweep, police said.

Police believe Curtis "Black" R. Thornton, 30, ran a crew of more than a dozen people, who were also part of the drug sweep, said Sgt. Chris Jensen, who ran the operation. The sweep was based on a yearlong investigation of individuals who sold narcotics to undercover Elgin police officers, he said.

Thornton, whose last address is in the 1000 block of Byron Lane, was charged with five felony counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and one felony weapons charge, police said. Thornton's bail was set at $500,000.

Thornton was on parole after serving eight years of a 10-year sentence for aggravated kidnapping, police said.

"He was probably one of our more prolific heroin dealers in Elgin," Theriault said.

About 50 officers divided into eight teams conducted the drug sweep that started at 9:30 a.m. Thursday and will continue in the coming days, police said.

The operation targeted a multitude of mostly small- and medium-level drug dealers, with Thornton being the biggest target, Jensen said.

An additional 17 individuals were arrested in the course of the last four months as part of the investigation, police said.

Those arrested Thursday were mostly men ranging in ages from 18 to 53. Some were undocumented immigrants, although it wasn't immediately clear how many, Jensen said.

"It wasn't just gang members -- it was a wide range of individuals we have investigated," he said.

As officers crisscrossed the streets of Elgin going from one address to the next, many of their targets weren't home or didn't respond to knocks at the door. When police made arrests, neighbors came out and curious drivers slowed down to watch.

Manuel T. Porties, 33, of the 500 block of South State Street, was arrested as he answered the door shirtless and barefoot. Officers got him a T-shirt and shoes before transporting him to the Elgin Police Department, where he was charged with unlawful delivery of cannabis, police said.

Two individuals took off running and managed to elude police, Elgin Police Officer Eric Echevarria said.

He spotted Thornton running across the street around noon Thursday as police were on their way to arrest one of Thornton's associates.

"We got a package deal on that one," Echevarria said.

As a result of the arrests officers recovered at least $380 worth of heroin packaged in small $10 bags. The final tally wasn't available Thursday evening, police said.

Thornton's clients came to Elgin to buy heroin from as far as Cook, Kane, Lake, McHenry and DuPage counties, Jensen said.

His arrest is expected to put a significant dent in the increasing heroin problem in Elgin, which has caused an uptick in heroin-related overdoses and hospitalizations, Jensen said.

The increase likely is related to an influx of residents from Chicago's West Side, Jensen said.

"A couple of years ago you didn't see heroin on the street. You would maybe see it two or three times a year," he said. "Then, all of a sudden you started seeing more."

Jensen urged people with relatives who are dealing with drug addiction to call him at (847) 289-2974 to get information about treatment.

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