Arrests of 21 reputed street gang members and associates accused in illegal drug, firearm sales announced in Lake County

Federal and local investigators have seized 21 reputed street gang members and their associates in what they say is an effort to stem illegal sales of drugs and weapons in Lake County.

At a news conference at Mundelein police headquarters Friday, Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim said the 4 Corner Hustlers who were nabbed in the nearly yearlong probe were charged under the Illinois Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Nerheim said it's the first time the law was used in Lake County.

"Investigations like this are long, labor intensive and require participation of several agencies," Nerheim said. "We will continue to employ this model of multiagency cooperation to fight these gangs that bring violence and drugs into our community."

Nerheim said authorities fanned out across Lake County on Thursday morning to serve arrest warrants on the 21 suspects. He said they were arrested without incident.

Being held on $10 million bail at the Lake County jail are Gregory Harris, 42, also known as Chili G, and James Allard, 41, also called Jimmy. Bond amounts for the other 19 suspects range from $1 million to $100,000.

Authorities said the suspects have been distributing and selling cocaine, heroin and prescription pills. Nerheim also said they are suspected in violent crimes and have been selling illegal firearms in Lake County.

Harris was the gang's ringleader who supervised the sale and distribution of the drugs and weapons, according to authorities.

Criminal complaints against the 21 suspects were unsealed in Lake County circuit court this week. The exact charges were not immediately available.

Led by the FBI, the probe included investigators from Mundelein police, Zion police, Waukegan police, North Chicago police, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the state's attorney's office, Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group Group and the Lake County sheriff's office.

Nerheim said the operation, nicknamed "Shut Down the Hustle," entailed sophisticated investigative techniques, but declined to provide specifics. He also didn't go beyond saying "large quantities of guns and drugs" have been trafficked.

Ricardo Pagan, an FBI assistant special agent, said the street gang members could not have been seized without local and federal authorities sharing information and intelligence before the operation started last January.

"Our goal and our strategy is to strike the heads of these organized groups," Pagan said.

Nerheim said the arrests of the reputed gang members and their pals are part of a larger effort to combat a growing problem of heroin use in Lake County. He said the 4 Corner Hustlers were obtaining heroin from Mexico.

"One of the things, especially with respect to heroin, this is a drug that is being sold everywhere," he said. "It's being sold all throughout Lake County. It's being sold in every community of Lake County. This isn't something where you need to drive to the west side of Chicago to buy heroin anymore. This is here in our community, which is why we take this so seriously."

Nerheim also alluded to how police in at least 28 Lake County departments have been trained to use the heroin overdose reversal drug naloxone, similar to officers in DuPage County. Police this week were expected to receive the drug, which has three delivery methods.

Proponents say police officers with naloxone who arrive to an overdose call before paramedics can help save lives.

  Authorities say these are 21 members of the 4 Corner Hustlers street gang who were seized on arrest warrants because of their involvement in illegal sales of drugs and weapons in Lake County. Steve Lundy/
  Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim at a news conference Friday in Mundelein discussing the arrests of 21 reputed street gang members and their associates accused of illegal sales of firearms and drugs. Steve Lundy/
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