65 charged in task force drug raids targeting West Side

SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - More than 65 people are facing federal or state charges for their roles in distributing heroin, cocaine and fentanyl on the West Side, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced Thursday.

A federal/state task force round-up of suspects—primarily operating in the Garfield Park, Homan Square and North Lawndale neighborhoods—was dubbed “Operation Sweet Dreams,” according to a federal official.

The majority of the suspects, 51, will face charges in state court. Of the 18 facing federal charges, 17 are already in custody. Two face federal firearms charges.

The federal defendants started making court appearances Thursday afternoon, while the state defendants were charged in separate complaints and will appear later in Cook County Criminal Court, the state’s attorney’s office said in a statement Thursday.

The investigation began in 2015 and uncovered criminal activity through wiretapped cell phones, undercover drug buys, and extensive surveillance.

Numerous drug deals were investigated, including in October 2016 in an alley in the 1800 block of North Leavitt in Bucktown, according to federal prosecutors.  A suspect bought two kilograms of heroin for $132,800 in cash and was under surveillance when he picked up the cash, wrapped in a red and white Target shopping bag, from a Near West Side house.

Another suspect agreed to sell his Chevrolet conversion van to a buyer he met online for a kilogram of cocaine, prosecutors said. But the purported buyer was an undercover law enforcement officer.  In August 2016, at the corner of Diversey and Austin in Belmont Cragin, the undercover officer gave the defendant a black bag containing a kilogram of sham cocaine for the van, according to prosecutors.  That deal was also recorded by law enforcement.

In all, the task force confiscated more than a dozen guns, including an assault rifle and semiautomatic pistol; more than $380,000 in cash; and drugs, including fentanyl, three kilograms of heroin and three kilograms of cocaine.