CHICAGO (WLS) --Federal prosecutors in Chicago said dozens of alleged street gang members have been arrested on state and federal charges connected to the sale of drugs that resulted in fatal overdoses.
Authorities said the arrests early Thursday were the result of a joint investigation called Operation Sweet Dreams by the Chicago Police Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that targeted the Unknown Vice Lords street gang. At least 65 suspects have been charged and heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, guns and cash were seized.
"Operation Sweet Dreams has resulted, has netted in seizures of about 3.8kg of heroin, a significant amount of which was laced with fentanyl, with 3kg of cocoaine, of about $400,000 in drug proceeds and over a dozen firearms including an AR-15 and TEC-9," said U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois Zach Farden.
Fentanyl is 100 times stronger than heroin and infesting Chicago's West Side.
The investigation began in 2015 when the sale of fentanyl-laced heroin on the city's West Side was blamed for more than 70 drug overdoses reported during a 72-hour period.
"This investigation started in 2015 when our city experienced a rash of heroin overdoses and deaths due to deadly mix of heroin and fentanyl," said Dennis Wichern, DEA Special Agent in Charge.
Authorities say the West Side is a lucrative area for drug dealing because of the large number of suburban drug users who drive an expressway that traverse the neighborhood.
"They don't know what they're doing, they don't care how they mix it," said John Roberts. "There are so many open drug markets on the West Side of the city... Make no mistake about it, they're selling poison in our neighborhoods for a profit and there's only one place for them. It's in prison."
Roberts' 19-year-old son died of an overdose in 2009. Since then the overdose rate in and around Chicago has skyrocketed.
Police said their investigation revealed Unknown Vice Lords runs the violent, illegal heroin business.
"We cannot talk about Chicago violence without talking about the insidiousness of the drug trade on the South and West sides," said Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx.
Now there's a dent in that drug trafficking, but just a small one.
"The 65 people they arrested today, good. But that's not enough. Keep doing it," Roberts said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.