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23 Charged, Including Suspected Gang Leader, In Federal Investigation Into Drug And Gun Trafficking In Englewood

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The alleged leader of the Black Disciples and 22 others were charged in a massive federal investigation into drug and gun trafficking in Englewood.

"We are here to announce a big win," said Chicago Police Supt. David Brown. "This is a big win for our team, and for the people of the South Side of Chicago."

The multi-year investigation involved the seizure of 24 guns, more than 13 grams of cocaine, more than a kilogram of heroin, more than 1,350 grams of fentanyl-laced heroin, about 750 grams of plain fentanyl, about 378 grams of crack cocaine, as well as suspected MDMA pills and $52,595 in illicit cash proceeds.

Brown noted that fentanyl can be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and fentanyl-laced heroin is often a deadly combination.

"It sends a message to those criminals that we are not going to tolerate violence in our community," said Englewood (7th) District Police Cmdr. Larry Snelling.

A total of 22 people were charged in the bust, including Darnell McMiller, nickname "Murder," who is the suspected leader of the Black Disciples street gang. Several other suspected members of the gang were also charged – including Clarence January, who is believed to lead the gang's "Dog Pound" faction, and Kenneth Brown, who allegedly supplied the gang with drugs.

Darnell McMiller
Darnell McMiller (Credit: U.S. Attorney's Office)
Clarence January
Clarence January (Credit: U.S. Attorney's Office)
Kenneth Brown
Kenneth Brown (Credit: U.S. Attorney's Office)

Also charged is Charles Knight, an alleged member of the Gangster Disciples, who is charged in a probe with supplying drugs to McMiller's crew.

"It's hot today. It's really hot," Brown said. "But it's hotter for the Black Disciples today, because justice for violent offenders has come to the South Side."

Officials made the announcement outside the Englewood District police station, 1438 W. 63rd St.

"It is incredible impactful for the people who live in that community on those blocks," said U.S. Attorney John Lausch. "As we've seen over the years here, people will take over entire neighborhoods protect their drug trade and protect it through violence."

The FBI led the investigation along with Chicago Police, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the IRS Criminal Investigation Division; the Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Task Force; and the FBI Windy City Task Force.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin also unveiled an eight-person indictment charging heroin and trafficking offenses related to the Chicago investigation.

The charges describe more than 50 drug and gun deals to people who were cooperating with law enforcement and who were sometimes surreptitiously recorded on video, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

"These gangs are fueled by the sale of illegal drugs, and drug dealing goes hand-in-hand with gun violence," Brown said.

McMiller, 34, of Chicago, is accused of conspiring with Knight, 56, of Riverdale, to distribute fentanyl-laced heroin to an informant on Sept. 30, 2019, in the 7000 block of South Lowe Avenue.

Brown, 59, of Chicago, is accused of conspiring with Black Disciples member Terrence Morris, 48, of Chicago, to distribute heroin in March 2019. Investigators found more than 13 kilograms of cocaine in individually-sealed packages in a storage unit that Brown was renting, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Cocaine seized from Kenneth Brown's storage locker
Cocaine seized from Kenneth Brown's storage locker. (Credit: U.S. Attorney's office)

January, 27, of Chicago, is accused of trafficking three handguns in the summer of 2019. He was previously convicted of a felony gun offense in Cook County Criminal Court and was not allowed to have a gun, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Several other convicted felons were also charged with unlawful gun possession.

McMiller, Knight, Morris, and Brown were all charged with federal drug offenses. Also charged with such offenses were Alonzo Brooks, 49, of Chicago; Shongo Collier, 48, of Riverdale; Lawrence Draus, 41, of Crestwood; Fredrick Stewart, 47, of Chicago; Tony Redding, 44, of Chicago; Ramont Austin, 39, of Chicago; Franklin Redding, 46, of Chicago; Barry Mickiel, 49, of Chicago, Brian Billups, 40, of Plainfield; Joseph Anderson, 43, of Chicago; and Santana Steele, 36, of Chicago.

Charged with gun offenses are January; Antoine McDaniels, 44, of Chicago; Willie Alford, 45, of Chicago; Deandre Martin, 32, of Chicago; Travis Washington, 24, of Chicago; Wendell Kemp, 55, of Chicago; and Shawn Hudson, 48,of Harvey.

Wendell Kemp
Wendell Kemp (Credit: CBS 2)
Deandre Martin holding firearm
Deandre Martin holding firearm. (Credit: U.S. Attorney's office)
Handgun sold by Travis Washington
Handgun sold by Travis Washington. (Credit: U.S. Attorney's office)
Bulletproof vest sold by Wendell Kemp
Bulletproof vest sold by Wendell Kemp. (Credit: U.S. Attorney's office)
Rifle sold by Wendell Kemp
Rifle sold by Wendell Kemp. (Credit: U.S. Attorney's office)

Another defendant, John Ector, 47, of Chicago was charged with bank fraud. He is accused of laundering drug money.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Bouie Jr. noted that grew up in Englewood, and cracking down on crime and violence in the neighborhood is a step toward making Englewood safe once more.

"We are here, working together – not just with law enforcement in the local, state, and federal level, with the community, to make a difference in our communities and try to rid our streets of violence, the gun activity, and the gangs," Bouie said.

As CBS 2's Jim Williams reported, the Black Disciples are one of Chicago's oldest gangs - decades old - noted in the Chicago Crime Commission's Gang Book, which includes McMiller's photo.

But with a reported 50 active gangs Chicago today and 100,000 gang members,
can the crackdown today make much of a dent in violence plaguing the city?

"The concern is will someone take their place, right? That's the question on everyone's mind," Lausch said. "It's our job, everyone job to ensure that it makes a difference."

In announcing the charges, Lausch said the arrival of federal agents in Chicago as part of Operation Legend "fits squarely into this strategy" of targeting drug traffickers and violent offenders.

He said the initial arrests Tuesday were made when Operation Legend was up and running, but noted that the investigation predates it.

Lausch noted that job creation and strong education resources are among the needs for improving life in Chicago in the big picture, but all would agree that "violent offenders need to be held accountable for their crimes."


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