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.