Feds crack down on gangs

Gangster Disciples rounded up on West Side

By Mike Robinson
The Associated Press 09-19-02

Federal agents began rounding up Gangster Disciples street gang members and their associates Wednesday on charges of running a $10,000-a-day cocaine and heroin market out of a Chicago housing project.

Richard "Icky Red" Epps, 39, an alleged Disciples assistant governor, and 33 others were accused of conspiring to sell the drugs, using as their base a 10-story, 150-unit building in the West Side's Rockwell Gardens.

"If we can drive terrorists from the caves of Tora Bora, then we ought to be just as committed to driving street-gang drug traffickers from public housing in Chicago," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald declared.

He said the charges arose from an investigation by police and federal agents in which Gangster Disciples leaders were secretly taped as they urged their followers to squeeze more money out of the drug market.

A 114-page criminal complaint outlined ruthless discipline imposed by gang leaders in their zeal for cash. Two men allegedly were beaten with baseball bats for stealing $10,000 in drug money.

Another man was threatened with a sledge hammer.

Among other things, gang leaders said they wanted the money to pay for bail for Gangster Disciples who had been arrested and for gang picnics.

Fitzgerald acknowledged that the use of Chicago Housing Authority projects as gang drug bases has continued despite years of crackdowns.

"When you weed a garden, you pull up all the weeds you can," he said. "When you come back years later, you can't expect that the weeds won't grow back."

But he said that is no reason for pessimism.

"What I say is, we're not giving up on the war on drugs," he said.