Several dozen members of a Chicago street gang who are implicated in drug trafficking and murder have been charged under Illinois' new racketeering law, authorities announced Thursday.
Racketeering and conspiracy charges were filed against 23 defendants who are primarily top leaders and members of the Black Souls gang, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said. An additional 18 suspects have been charged with state drug offenses and other crimes as a result of the investigation dubbed "Operation 40 Cal."
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"These leaders tend to insulate themselves and this law helps law enforcement penetrate the veil of secrecy," Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said.
Among those charged were Cornel Dawson, 38, the reputed leader of the Black Souls, and his second in command, Teron Odum, 34, authorities said. Also arrested were four gang leaders authorities say were responsible for managing the gang's street drug markets. They were identified by authorities as Antwan Davis, 30; Ulysses Polk, 32; Clifton Lemon, 41; and Jeff Thompson, 44.
The charges were unsealed Thursday in an affidavit and criminal complaints filed by the state's attorney's office in criminal court.
Authorities say Dawson was captured on recordings saying he warned younger Black Souls not to snitch, adding he suspected he was under investigation for murder.
Prosecutors accused the gang in at least six killings, including the June 24, 2002, murder of Charles Watson.
A member of the Black Souls had accused two lower-ranking members of the gang, including Watson, of stealing money and drugs from him, authorities say. As a result, the two were beaten, resulting in the death of Watson. Authorities say Watson's murder highlighted the gang's use of violence as a disciplinary tool.
The racketeering case against the gang also accuses members of being involved in the July 2011 shooting of two Chicago police officers who tried to stop a Black Souls member for dealing drugs. One officer was grazed in the head and wounded in the arm. A second officer was shot in the head, and a bullet remains lodged behind his ear.
Alvis Holley remains jailed on attempted murder charges in the shooting.
Gov. Pat Quinn last year signed the Illinois Street Gang RICO Act, which gives state's attorneys similar powers to the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Prior to passage of the law, state's attorneys have only been able to prosecute gang crimes as individual acts, barring pursuit of gang leaders for the actions of their members.
"This gives us a larger net in order to attack the entire gang," Alvarez said.