ABC 7's Paul Meincke reports it's all part of a bigger plan to dismantle Chicago's street gangs.
A joint investigation between feds and the locals led to nearly two dozen gang arrests in Chicago. It's not a new phenomenon, but it comes at a time when an outgoing mayor has said the feds haven't worked hard enough, and a candidate has suggested there is too little cooperation between local and federal law enforcement when it comes to fighting gang crime.
"I can't vouch for what's going on elsewhere. I can vouch for this: you cannot appreciate the level of cooperation that goes on in Chicago among law enforcement in the gang area. It is second to none," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
Amidst shared congratulations, Thursday's announcement is about efforts to dismantle leadership of a Chicago street gang.
"This case reaches from the highest level of the 2-6 street gang down to the low level," said Nick Roti, CPD organized crime chief.
It was called Operation: Shady business and involved wiretaps, surveillance, undercover video during a 15-month investigation launched by Chicago police.
It focused on the gang's activities on the Southwest Side, cocaine trafficking, gun recovery, the shut down of a marijuana grow house, and the arrest -- so far of 22 people -- including a pair of alleged ranking gang leaders.
During the investigation police ran extensive surveillance, and at one point followed alleged gang member Steve Dragon, who investigators say had placed a quantity of cocaine in his car. He was pulled over and brought into a police station under a ruse while officers took the cocaine out of his car.
When released, Dragon thought someone had stolen the cocaine, and he called 911 to report a theft.
Then, extremely agitated, Dragon -- on an intercepted phone call -- told a friend, "Bro, I was a victim of circumstance. These [expletive] cops, [expletive] pull me out of the car and my [expletive] gets robbed."
Michael Vaca -- also later arrested – responds, "I don't know, dude. I don't, [explicit], what to say. That's crazy. What luck, huh?"
Dragon replies, "Hey, I got to go dude. I gotta throw up."
"I don't recall off hand a subject ever calling the police because their dope got stolen out of their car," Roti said.
Prosecutors in this case have a number of secretly recorded phone conversations - -including some that, police say, tipped them to weapons use and trafficking.
A list of the federal defendants (with best known ages and last known residences) and their charged roles in the complaint follows:
Count One: conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, Jan 11-14, 2010
Francisco Masias, aka "Swoll" and "Cisco," 31, of Berwyn
Jose Maldonado, aka "Spook," 32, of Chicago
Teodoro Gorostieta, 23, unknown
Carlos Hernandez Ramirez, aka "Jesse Martinez" and "Jesse," 51, of Chicago
Count Two: possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, May 20, 2010
Randy Ramirez, 31, of Chicago
Juan Maldonado, 19, unknown
Ruben Tello, 21, of Chicago
Count Three: possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, June 19, 2010
Francisco Montemayor, aka "Kiko," 29, of Cicero
Count Four: possession with intent to distribute cocaine, Feb. 1, 2010
Edwin Rodriguez, 24, of Riverside
Denise Aceves, 22, of Riverside
Count Five: possession with intent to distribute cocaine, Jan. 16, 2010
Jorge Covarrubias, 31, of Chicago
Count Six: possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, April 21, 2010
Jose Garcia, aka "Beast," 40, of Chicago
Count Seven: conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, Dec. 7, 2009 - Jan. 14, 2010
Michael Vaca, aka "Mikey," 31, of Chicago
Steven Dragon, 30, of Comstock Park, Mich.
Count Eight: manufacturing more than 100 marijuana plants, April - June 30,2010
Jason Herrera, aka "J," 29, of Berwyn
Efrain Diaz aka "Fro," 31, of Chicago
Andrew Vela, aka "Drew," 29,of Berwyn and Newark, Ill.
Adrian Bernal,aka "T," 27, of Chicago
Shaun Dodson, 28, of Burbank