CHICAGO (WLS) --A reputed gang leader is one of dozens of people in custody as authorities say they shut down a lucrative drug operation on Chicago's West Side.
Residents in several neighborhoods were often caught in violence that was triggered by drug trafficking near the intersection of Kostner and Congress, a West Side intersection right off the Ike. For years, it was a lucrative open air drug market for heroin and crack.
"As recently as yesterday, drugs were still being dealt at this corner. Today it's closed for business," said U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon.
Early Thursday morning, Chicago Police and ATF agents rounded up nearly three dozen alleged gang members involved in what authorities say was a big-money drug operation. Among the arrests was Johnny "Goo" Herndon , 55, who is said to be a patriarch of the Gangster Disciples street gang.
The Kostner and Congress market, and another street corner sales spot a couple blocks away were bringing in, authorities say, approximately $162,000 every month.
The federal complaint said Herndon has, over the years, directed a big portion of his take into real estate by buying, rehabbing and renting out nearly 31 West Side properties with an estimated value of at least $1.6 million. Those properties were bringing in $20,000 a month in rental receipts, making him an alleged drug lord and landlord.
"They're not just selling drugs, they've expanded to other things, like mortgage fraud, like human trafficking. So it's not uncommon at all, we've seen it," said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.
The drug dealing here has long been considered blatant, has generated many complaints. This bust, authorities say came about because of confidential informants and controlled buys that haven't developed before.
"I think it was eight or nine wire intercepts in a six-month period during the course of this investigation that brought us to this point," said Fardon.
"Goo" Herndon has, as best we can determine, only a minor criminal background. That he was buying properties with cash would presumably have caught some regulatory attention, but prosecutors would not discuss Herndon's activities beyond what's in the criminal complaint.
It is quite likely that the government may eventually go after those properties as part of a drug money forfeiture action.
Christopher Harris, the alleged manager of Herndon's organization, was arrested Thursday after recorded conversations revealed his alleged direction of some firearms as well as an attempted retaliation after a gang member was shot June 7, according to the affidavit.
In addition to Herndon and Harris, the following people face federal charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute crack cocaine: Jonathan Green, 27; Fabian Redmond, 28; Jonathan O'Leary, 30; Antwaion Edwards, 39; Marcus Longstreet, 29; Manuel Meeks, 41; Caurience Herndon, 34; Deshawn Richardson, 21; Andrew Jones, 31; and Patricia Neal, 35. Harris faces an additional felon-in-possession charge.
The following people face various state drug distribution charges: Jose Escalara, 43; Lanoris Holman, 48; Derrick Hughes, 53; Arturo Lara, 54; Sammie Lockhart, 58; Pamera Long, 42; Charles Markese, 57; Russell Moravec, 49; Deangelo Percy, 34; Earl Smith, 28; Shawn Smith, 46; Shauntah Langford, 32; Gene Mccaulley, 34; Jerrold Sanders, 44; and Micheal Stokes, 29.