In an effort to disrupt drug sales in a housing complex at the center of Chicago’s fentanyl crisis, federal authorities yesterday filed conspiracy charges against 47 members and associates of the street gang that controls narcotics sales there, the Chicago Tribune reports. Hundreds of police and federal agents moved against the Mickey Cobras just after dawn in a sweep called Operation Snakebite of more than two dozen people with links to the gang–including a Chicago police officer who allegedly tried to help gang members stay a step ahead of the law.
Gang leader James Austin, 29, was taken into custody in Ohio and charged in what authorities described as a sophisticated drug operation that saw heroin, crack cocaine, and fentanyl distributed at the Dearborn Homes housing project. Fentanyl has been discovered in the blood of 87 overdose victims who have died since spring 2005. As toxicology reports are completed on overdose deaths, the number of fatalities linked to fentanyl continues to grow. The gang offered eight brands of heroin at the housing complex, with names such as “Drop Dead” and “Lethal Injection,” said federal prosecutor Gary Shapiro. “They carry niche marketing to its extreme,” Shapiro said. “It struck everybody that had anything to do with this case, in light of everything that happened in this community, particularly in the last six or eight months, how cold-blooded the marketing seemed to be.”