These arrests come after an almost year-long investigation dubbed Operation Birdcage. Police say the heroin ring took in as much as $10,000 a day, a lucrative drug trade that's now been disrupted.
The alleged heroin operation was centered in a West Side Chicago neighborhood. Police say members of the New Breeds street gang sold the drugs outside a gas station in the 4000-block of West Van Buren, as well as a grocery store and other outdoor locations.
"This is a great day for the good guys. I think we were able to attack an organization today and make a difference today in Chicago," said Jack Riley, DEA Chicago special agent in charge.
At a news conference, authorities said they used wiretaps and undercover drug buys to find and seize guns, cash and over 17 pounds of heroin worth more than $1 million.
Twenty-three people have been arrested, but six are still at large, including gang member Dana Bostic, the operation's alleged ringleader.
"This was a significant drug trafficking organization, and it's been effectively dismantled," said Supt. Jody Weis, Chicago Police Department.
In a 200-page federal complaint, prosecutors say suppliers transported the drugs in vehicles, hiding the heroin in the drive shaft and stashing drug money in a gas tank.
"Traditionally, if you look at the way traffickers and transporters operate, they're as ingenious as you can possibly imagine," said Riley.
A recent Roosevelt University study found Chicago and the suburbs had the most heroin-related ER visits of any metro area in the United States, with an increasing number of young suburban users entering the city to buy.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald couldn't say Thursday how these new arrests will impact the overall problem.
"I don't think there's a good vehicle in a particular case to say you've made a dent or not made a dent," said Fitzgerald. "On any one given day, we're not going to claim we've ended the war on drugs, but we're also thinking we're going to make a real impact on the 11th District."
To put it all in context, these arrests involve only one faction of one gang in one Chicago neighborhood. Superintendant Weis acknowledged users will likely find their heroin elsewhere.
However, police see this as progress in this very tough drug fight.
Facing state narcotics charges arising from the investigation are Dwayne Johnson, 26; Deshawn Williams, 21; and Eric Hawkins, 21, who was not yet in custody.
A list of the federal defendants (with best known ages and last known residences), their custody status, and their alleged roles in the complaint follows:
Alleged members of drug-trafficking organizations:
Dana Bostic, 31, of Aurora, aka "Mello," "Bird," and "Big Gangsta;" fugitive
Brandon Richards, 25, of Hillside, aka "Smooth" and "B Smooth;" in custody
Christopher Hunter, 35, of Chicago, aka "Chris Rock;" in custody
James Kirkendall, 32, of Berwyn, aka "Jigga;" fugitive
Ladonta Gill, 24, of Cicero, aka "Bam" and "Beano;" fugitive
Aaron Bagley, 26, of Cicero, aka "Little One;" in custody
Maurice Davis, 25,of Chicago, aka "Capone;" fugitive
Tommy Moore, 22, of Chicago, aka "Little Tommy;" in custody
Dandre London, 34, of Chicago, aka "D-Mack;" in custody
Raynard Bowser, 26, of Chicago; in custody
Cornelius Thomas, 22, of Chicago, aka "Mike;" in custody
Derek Thomas, 27, of Chicago, aka "Boo;" in custody
Tommy Adams, 47, of Chicago; in custody
Raymond McLain, 23, of Chicago, aka "Truck;" in custody
Parish Mitchell, 22, of Chicago; in custody
Norman Thompson, 50, of Chicago; in custody
Enrico Valentino, 23, of Franklin Park, aka "Rico;" in custody
Rickey Ruiz, 19,of Forest Park; in custody
Ruben Rosario, 27, of Chicago; in custody
Elias Rubio, 59, of Wyoming, Mich.; fugitive
Alleged heroin suppliers:
Erik Guevara. 27, of Forest Park, aka "Fat Ass;" in custody
Eddie Valentino, 25,of Chicago, aka "White Boy;" fugitive
Alleged wholesale customers:
Parris Fultz, 38,of Chicago; in custody
Kyle Morris, 36, of Oak Park; in custody
Donnie Ackers, 32,of Chicago; in custody
Jonathan Moore, 26, of Chicago; in custody
The Associated Press contributed to this report.