Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced the indictment of over 40 leaders and senior members of a huge Chicago street gang accountable for Chicago’s West Side major violent drug-dealing enterprise. The seizing of the major street gang ensued from the Cook County’s new Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute, which provided legal tools to apprehend the violent institution.
The “Operation 40 Cal” investigations resulted to a historical prosecution within the Cook County, involving first-ever charges made in line with the “RICO” statute. Charges were made against 23 defendants who were known to be primary members of the “Black Souls” – one of the major Chicago street gangs involved in violent drug-dealing enterprises. Included in the 23 arrested members was the gang’s top leader or “chief”, along with other master constituents. Through the same investigative operation, additional 18 defendants have been charged with state drug offenses among other charges in relation to the “RICO” statute.
Among the 23 defendants charged was Cornel Dawson a.k.a. “Corn”, 38, who is the notorious gang’s head leader, and Teron ODum a.k.a. “Ty”, 34, the gang’s second in command. The 23 defendants have all been charged with Racketeering Conspiracy and Calculated Criminal Drug Conspiracy, which are both Class X felony offenses. Moreover, included in the defendants charged were the gang’s drug market spots managers known as the “top runners” or the four “princes” namely, Antwan Davis, 30; Clifton Lemon 41; Ulysses Polk, 32; and Jeff Thompson, 44;
The “Operation 40 Cal” is an investigation conducted in partnership with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Chicago Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to target major street gangs, with focus on their key and primary members and supervisors. This operation plan aims to combat gangs working on a 24-hour-a-day, open-air criminal drug enterprise, specifically targeting those involved in deals of cocaine and heroin within the two to a three-block radius of Madison and Pulaski, Illinois.
In November of 2012, investigations on these major street gangs began, following the murder of Claude Snulligan, a West Side resident. He braved to complain and report the illegal activities performed by the Black Souls gang within his area of residency. On October 12, 2012, Snulligan died with a bullet to the back of his head as a result of being a target by the gang for involving the police in their business.
Black Souls is known for its wide drug operations, wherein the gang primarily sells small packets of heroin through direct hand-to-hand transactions with drive-by customers. Investigations revealed that the drug operations led by the Black Souls gang could have been earning as much as $11 million in cash proceeds yearly. This amount is based on the estimation of law enforcement authorities.
The successful investigation of the case is largely supported by the RICO statute, wherein the RICO charges enabled investigators and prosecutors to target these organized gang activities and their member hierarchy. Furthermore, investigators were able to employ newly court-approved wiretap systems, search warrants, and video surveillance in order to pursue the major, violent drug-related gang successfully. With the use of these new instruments, law enforcers were able to capture gang activities in the primary areas of their drug enterprise, as well as locations where the gang members assemble for a meeting or to carry out criminal pursuits.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, with the whole of Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, led the making and writing of the new RICO law, which aimed to enable local prosecutors to combat gang-related violence with federal-style investigations and prosecutions. The State of Illinois is no longer one of the few states left to advance to a modern state RICO law, after 40 years of the RICO law’s first case conviction.
“The new Street Gang RICO law has enabled us to launch an unprecedented attack on the leadership of this violent and notorious Chicago street gang. It is a Game Changer for law enforcement in our war against Chicago street gangs,” State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said.
In 2012, the Illinois Legislature finally approved the “Street Gang RICO” law as proposed by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. The new Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute was sponsored by the State Senator Tony Munoz and the State Representative Michael Zalewski. Moreover, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel strongly supported the legislative efforts of the approval of the new RICO statute, claiming that these new measures shall be a valuable tool to help prosecutors and other law enforcers in the fight against gang-related violence.
Mayor Emanuel expressed his support to the RICO law with his recent statement on the matter – “I pushed for a statewide RICO law so that our public safety officials would have a valuable tool in reclaiming our neighborhoods from gangs, guns and drugs. Building cases like this take a long time and thanks to the hard work and cooperation of the Chicago Police Department, the FBI and Cook County State’s Attorney, these violent criminals are facing stiff penalties and communities across Chicago will continue to see more progress in the fight against crime.”
The Chicago Police Department also showed their support for the new RICO law. Chicago Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy noted that this new RICO statute improves law enforcement efforts.
“This is a milestone moment in our effort to continue reducing violence and crime in Chicago, made possible by our officers and our state and federal law enforcement partners. The arrests and charges under the state RICO law are significant and meaningful, and this powerful tool will help us continue to reduce violence as part of our comprehensive policing strategy,” Chicago Police Superintendent McCarthy said.
Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the FBI, Cory B. Nelson also stated the positive effects of the new RICO statute in the efforts to combat drug-related crimes.
“Today’s arrests are another chapter in our focused efforts to rid Chicago’s neighborhoods of violence. They demonstrate the effectiveness of joining forces with our law enforcement partners toward that common goal,” Special Agent Nelson said.
The defendants of the “Operation 40 Cal” case were each charged with a criminal conspiracy based on the patterns and practices of the gang’s criminal enterprise. As such, the RICO charges were established from evidence and previous violent criminal conduct of the Black Souls gang, from cases beginning in May of 1999. Charges served to the defendants include multiple counts of murder and attempted murders, which also involved the attempted murders of two Chicago police officers. Furthermore, underlying charges in “Operation 40 Cal” include several murders of witnesses and other gang members, kidnapping, drug trafficking, armed robbery, bribery, burglary, among other offenses.
Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office filed the charges in an affidavit and criminal complaints on June 13, 2013, at the Cook County Criminal Court.
With the provided criminal documents containing allegations that are not evidence of guilt, the public is reminded that the defendant shall be presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the state has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Updated: August 29, 2020