May 9, 2006
 
67 Chicago Street Gang Members Face Drug Charges
 
(CBS) CHICAGO More than 700 police and federal agents, including SWAT teams from as far away as Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Detroit and Springfield, swooped down on Chicago's New Breed street gang Tuesday as prosecutors unveiled drug charges aimed at putting the group out of business.

A total of 67 people were charged Tuesday with running an open-air drug market on the West Side, as the result of an investigation that began with undercover officers posing as crooked cops.

The drug market centered around a low-rise complex in the 1800 block of South Karlov Avenue known as “The Square,” and was operated by the New Breeds street gang, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

“Unfortunately for the people who live in ‘The Square,’ for the last few years that was a fortress that was taken over by a gang,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

Authorities say the New Breeds gang, an offshoot of the Black Gangster Disciples, ran a retail drug sale operation out of the complex. They allegedly sold cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, marijuana and guns to anybody with the cash.

According to the FBI, the gang members were doing business worth $15,000 a day, more than $5 million a year. Thanks to undercover Chicago cops, FBI wiretaps and informants, the gang has been busted.

Fifty-six alleged New Breed gang members and associates were charged in an unsealed complaint accompanied by a 166-page FBI affidavit. Authorities said 11 others were charged in related state and federal cases.

Officials said 43 of those charged were in custody by late Tuesday as 16 SWAT teams and hundreds of other officers and federal agents fanned out to make arrests.

Also seized in Tuesday's sweep were more than a kilogram of heroin, two kilograms of cocaine, seven guns, thousands of dollars in cash, a bulletproof vest and four automobiles.

"Each of the federal defendants in this case if convicted will face at least 10 years in prison, so they won't be back anytime soon," Robert D. Grant, special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago office, said at a news conference called to announce the crackdown.

Federal officials said that drug sales in The Square were dominated by a family named Covens. One brother, Terrell Covens, is president of the recording label Projectic Groupent, officials said. The other, Trevel Covens, was described as an aspiring rap artist and the lead singer in The Brick Boys -- so named because drug dealers call The Square "the bricks."

The investigation began in November of last year, when undercover officers posing as “dirty cops” approached alleged New Breeds member Ronald Turner and seized several bags of crack cocaine. Turner tried to make a deal with the officers to get the drugs back in exchange for a high-powered rifle, the release said.

After five telephone conversations, Turner told the officer he would bring an AK-47 rifle in return for the drugs, but he instead brought the officer a disassembled sawed-off shotgun, and because it was not an AK-47, the officer, still playing in the ruse, did not return the drugs, the release said.

Turner was arrested on March 16 by Chicago Police officers after being found with a silver handgun, the release said.

Ultimately, the investigation into Turner’s actions led to 13 federal search warrants, which resulted in the 67 arrests, the release said.

Turner, 25, was among those arrested or wanted, along with alleged gang leaders Terrell, Trevel and Lavell Covens, who are accused of being the ringleaders of the operation. They were all charged with participating in a drug distribution conspiracy that sold powder and crack cocaine, heroin, and marijuana in “The Square.”

“It’s no secret that the new organized crime in Chicago is the street gang. They’re very violent, and they make their living from the sale of street level narcotics,” said Police Supt. Phil Cline.

Cline said the undercover officers were extraordinarily brave because surveillance police who normally watch them, ready to go to the rescue if their cover is blown, were unable to see them once they were inside the housing complex.

“The New Breeds gang did not get the message from prior federal sweeps – if you engage in the street gang-controlled distribution of narcotics and use firearms, you expose yourself to federal prosecution that will relocate you for many years – in prison,” Fitzgerald said in the release. “Today, the (Chicago Police Department) and the FBI delivered that message again. The officers and agents put their own safety at risk to free this community from the grip of a gang.”

The defendants who are in custody will appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Mason in the federal courthouse downtown Wednesday morning.

“We have good days and we have bad days. Today was a good day for law enforcement, a bad day for the New Breeds Gang,” said the FBI’s Robert Grant.