The suspects allegedly sold drugs and weapons in a Gage Park neighborhood. Operation Dead-Eye is a year long investigation that culminated with Wednesday's arrests.
This trafficking investigation involved some wiretaps with agents listening to and translating coded conversation. Some of the talk involved "a bizzle," which means an eighth of an ounce of narcotics, "a stack," which means $1,000, and a "thumper" or "pipe," which are terms for gun. Wednesday, 20 people allegedly involved in this drug ring got "bumped," which means arrested.
For much of last year, ATF agents have had their eyes on a South Side home near the corner of 54th & Hoyne making undercover buys of crack cocaine. Wednesday, they returned in numbers to raid that house and others to break up a dope ring run by a group called the Damenville Gangster Disciples.
The feds identify the gang leader as 32-year-old Isaiah "Big Cuz" Hicks, an ex-con who's already done prison time for drug and gun crimes.
"Today, the residents of the South Side of Chicago got one of their blocks back due to the hard work of the ATF And the Cook County Sheriff's police working together," said Patrick Fitzgerald, US attorney.
ATF called this Operation Dead-Eye. It focused on a comparatively small area that was, the feds say, fully under gang control. It is something of a snapshot of how gangs are working in Chicago: smaller factions of larger gangs control drug trafficking in a fairly defined area. It can be, for them, pretty lucrative.
Agents confiscated drugs, some guns and over $40,000 in cash.
"If we start here, and for this block eradicate this, it's going to have a wave effect on the whole city as it goes through, because we're taking out their money supply. And we're taking out their narcotics supply. We took some firearms off the streets. So it going to have a ripple effect," said Donald Soranno, ATF.
Still, Hicks, who just came off parole in 2006, was able, agents say, to setup a fairly extensive crack cocaine operation in a short period of time. Hicks and 19 others have been arrested. The criminal complaint includes their street names, G-ball, D-Block, Nook, Baby Dough, and Big Bird, among others.
Eight people are still being sought by authorities including one alleged gang member who carries the street name Boss Hog.
Hicks, who was sent to prison on a drug and weapons charge in 2001 and again in 2004, is now looking at the possibility of a significantly stiffer sentence -- as are the others under arrest. The federal charges call for mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years.