29 Arrested in Chicago; Ties to Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Suspected

(CHICAGO) – JUN 21--Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Chicago Police Department officers arrested 29 alleged members of the Mickey Cobras Street Gang who are suspected of trafficking fentanyl-laced heroin, crack cocaine, and marijuana in parts of Chicago’s Southside.

Over 400 law enforcement officers took part in the raids that seized more than 100 kilograms of heroin, 5 firearms, four vehicles, and an undetermined amount of cash. The seized heroin is being sent to a lab to confirm if it was mixed with fentanyl.

"The Mickey Cobras Street Gang had a stranglehold over the residents of the Dearborn Homes," said Timothy Ogden, Associate Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Division. "Today, we have allowed them to breath again."

“Law enforcement works best when law enforcement agencies work in a cooperative, coordinated matter. Our efforts to rid the city and suburbs of the curse of gangs, drugs and violence are – as this investigation is proving – dramatically enhanced by the synergy of the talents and resources that local and federal law enforcement can bring to the table, said Mr. Gary S. Shapiro, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

" The Chicago Police Department’s unmatched collection and analysis of gang intelligence in combination with the experience and sophisticated tools of the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal law enforcement agencies and the formidable federal drug penalties demonstrate that we can continue to reduce the impact and dangers of gangs on everyone who must live in their midst.”

A criminal complaint unsealed today charged members and associates of the Mickey Cobras street gang, including James Austin, 29, of Akron, Ohio, the alleged Mickey Cobras’ “King,”with operating a sophisticated, long-running narcotics distribution organization. The organization controlled sales of heroin and other drugs in a large portion of the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) Dearborn Homes, an 800-unit public housing development.

Over 400 law enforcement officers assembled at U.S. Cellular Park in Chicago prior to the raid.

Before today’s arrests and seizures, four kilograms of heroin, as well as approximately 309 grams of fentanyl, cash, and numerous firearms were seized or purchased during the investigation, code-named Operation Snakebite. The probe, which began in 1999 and includes agents from the Internal Revenue Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives as well as the DEA and CPD, is part of a sustained, coordinated effort by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to dismantle Chicago’s highly-organized, and violent, drug-trafficking street gangs. The investigation employed undercover police officers and DEA agents, numerous wiretaps, cooperating witnesses, and a steady progression of searches and seizures of evidence.

The drug distribution operation described in the complaint was notable for its scope and marketing tactics. The complaint alleges that the Mickey Cobras sold large quantities of heroin in the Dearborn Homes by marketing different brands, or “lines,” of heroin that used distinctive packaging, various recipes for mixing the heroin with other substances, and different brand names – among them “Reaper,” Penicillin,” “Drop Dead,” “Lethal Injection” and “Renegade.” According to the complaint, anyone seeking to sell a line of heroin in the portion of the Dearborn Homes controlled by the Mickey Cobras had to first obtain permission from defendant Austin and members of the Mickey Cobras “Board of Directors.” Everyone who received this permission, with the exception of the highest-ranking gang leaders, also was required to pay a street tax for permission to operate the line. According to the complaint, Austin personally ran two of the most profitable lines of heroin, “Reaper” and “Penicillin,” which generated a total of $20,000 to $25,000 per day in revenue.

Special Agent Ogden and Mr. Shapiro announced the arrests with Philip J. Cline, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department; Byram W. Tichenor, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago office of the IRS; and Andrew L. Traver, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago office of the ATF.