DuPage jury finds Chicago man guilty of drug charges
A Chicago man prosecutors say was the first lieutenant of a massive heroin distribution network in Cook and DuPage counties for the past several years faces seven to 30 years in prison after a DuPage County jury Friday night found him guilty on virtually all counts.
After deliberating for four hours, the jury found Terrence Steele, 37, guilty of eight of nine counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, one count of racketeering and conspiracy and one count of racketeering.
His next court date is Dec. 12 for post-trial motions and the setting of the sentencing date.
Prosecutors allege Steele was a low level heroin dealer on the west side of Chicago until he met the ring's leader Andres Garcia, 27, of Chicago at a party several years ago. Shortly thereafter, they allege, Steele became a high ranking lieutenant of a heroin enterprise, buying heroin from Garcia and using two "runners" to supply kilograms of raw, uncut heroin to suburban customers, while insulating himself from police.
At the height of the heroin enterprise, prosecutors said, Steele was bringing in $2,000 a day in cash after he took his 90 percent cut of the profit.
"(Steele) is a heroin dealer, and not the dealer who's also a user. (Steele) sells heroin purely for profit," said Assistant State's Attorney Tim Diamond during Friday's closing arguments. "(Steele) has been living on the broken souls of heroin addicts for far too long,"
The investigation began in February 2013 after authorities executed a search warrant in Carol Stream, seized more than 20 grams of heroin and obtained information about a widespread drug ring.
Prosecutors said the charges stem from an extensive investigation that began in February 2013 and involved investigators from the DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group numerous law enforcement agencies and more than 17 court-authorized wiretaps that recorded 39,000 conversations between Garcia and Steele, Steele and his street dealers, the street dealers and customers and between the most loyal customers and Steele himself.
"The truth is simple," Assistant State's Attorney Steve Knight said, pointing at Steele. "Terrence Steele had a drug ring. And he had guys who worked for him."
Prosecutors said those two men checked in with Steele at approximately 9 p.m. every night to discuss the day's sales and inventory for the next day.
One of those men, Steven Phillips, 39, of Hillside, faces similar charges. Phillips refused to testify against Steele Friday and now faces criminal contempt of court charges as well. He is next due in court on Dec. 17. Garcia is next due in court Friday.
Steele's attorney John Paul Carroll disputes Steele was ever involved in the ring and said he was never seen at any of the drug deals he is charged with. He also disputes whether Steele's voice is the voice heard on several of the recordings, some of which were played in court Friday.
"He was not there. He didn't sell it," Carroll said. "There's no evidence. Only suspicion. I don't believe the prosecution came even close to presenting a reasonable doubt argument."
Altogether, 31 people from Cook and DuPage counties were charged in the operation.
The case is the first to be prosecuted in DuPage under the state's Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law.