Man gets 20 years for distributing heroin in DuPage
The alleged first lieutenant of a massive heroin distribution network run from the West Side of Chicago was sentenced Thursday in DuPage County to 20 years in prison.
A jury convicted 37-year-old Terrence Steele in November of eight counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, one count of racketeering and conspiracy, and one count of racketeering.
Prosecutors alleged Steele was a low-level heroin dealer 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 the drug from Garcia and using two "runners" to supply grams of raw, uncut heroin to suburban customers, while insulating himself from police.
At the height of the heroin enterprise, Assistant State's Attorney Steve Knight said Thursday, Steele was bringing in $2,000 a day in cash after he took his 90 percent cut of the profit.
Judge Robert Kleeman said Steele's lengthy criminal history, including an April 2001 conviction in Cook County for reckless homicide for killing a 12-year-old girl in an accident in which he was proved to be intoxicated, weighed heavily on the sentence.
An aunt and cousin, however, pleaded with Kleeman for leniency for Steele, calling him a "great father," "great role-model" and a "God-fearing man." Steele declined to address Kleeman.
Knight, however, said Steele "pulled the wool over" his family members' eyes as he led his criminal lifestyle.
"This guy didn't care about anything but making money," Knight said. "Society is truly victimized by heroin. The pedalling of heroin has to stop. Who knows how many bodies this guy has underneath him?"
Steele's prosecution and sentencing are both firsts in DuPage County under the state's Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Law (RICO), which went into effect last year.
The law provides for suspects facing specific charges, such as controlled substance trafficking as in Steele's case, to face much stiffer penalties if a jury finds the individual illegal activities were part of a larger criminal conspiracy involving others and conducted over a period of time.
On Aug. 27, 2013, investigators from 17 DuPage County police departments, the DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group, the DEA and the Illinois State Police, fanned out in DuPage and Cook counties and arrested 31 individuals on various drug trafficking and RICO violation charges. To date, Steele is the highest-ranking member of the alleged drug ring to be tried and sentenced.
Garcia's case is continuing and he is next due in DuPage court on Jan. 16.
Steele will serve a minimum of 10 years before being eligible for parole. He received credit for the 500 days he has been held in DuPage County jail since his arrest.