Eye of the Bhogi
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Sat Jun 24 00:00:56 EDT 2006
By MONICA DAVEY and ERIC FERKENHOFF
Published: June 22, 2006
CHICAGO, June 21 — Hundreds of law enforcement officers raided a public
housing project here shortly after dawn on Wednesday, taking aim at what
they described as a sophisticated drug ring that may be responsible for some
of 70 recent fatal overdoses in Chicago and its suburbs.
Chicago officers taking a suspect into custody in a raid prompted by dozens
of fatal heroin overdoses.
Related Officials Seeking Source of Lethal Heroin
The overdoses were caused by fentanyl, a dangerously potent heroin additive
that has also led hundreds of other people to overdose in cities including
Detroit, Camden, N.J., and Philadelphia. The authorities here said they
viewed Wednesday's action as a first significant attack on what has become
the deadliest drug combination in years.
The raid, by some 400 federal and local officers, was carried out at the
Dearborn Homes, on the South Side. There, officials said, they seized a
variety of drugs including some 200 pounds of heroin, which will be tested
for the presence of fentanyl.
Twenty-five people were arrested in Chicago, most at the project, along with
at least one other in Texas and at least one other in Akron, Ohio. That is
in addition to five who were already in custody here.
Still others remain at large, among a total of nearly 50 people charged by
prosecutors with conspiracy to possess and distribute heroin, fentanyl,
crack cocaine and marijuana.
The prosecutors described a complex system of sales and marketing within the
project by the Mickey Cobras, a street gang. Dealers had to obtain rights to
sell their own particular recipe of heroin and other substances by paying a
tax to the gang's leadership, said Gary S. Shapiro, first assistant United
States attorney. Several of the eight names of recipes, or "brands," seemed
themselves to promise extreme danger: Reaper, Drop Dead and Lethal
Fentanyl, a painkiller dozens of times as potent as morphine, is added to
enhance heroin's effect. Though warnings concerning a variety of fatal
heroin mixtures have been issued over many years, the police and drug
experts say they fear that the recent overdoses involving fentanyl, much of
which has been traced to Mexico, may suggest a larger network and thus a
The authorities said that none of the people arrested Wednesday had yet been
directly tied to the fatal overdoses here, but that the investigation was
continuing. A number of the deaths occurred in or near the Dearborn Homes.
An hour before the raid began, Timothy Ogden, associate special agent in
charge of the Drug Enforcement
office, warned officers about what they might expect if they were to
find fentanyl, large amounts of which can attack the respiratory system.
"It is dangerous to the touch," Mr. Ogden told the waiting officers. "You
can overdose by simply touching the stuff and touching it to your eyes, your
Among those arrested was James Austin, whom the authorities described as a
leader of the Mickey Cobras, and Tashika Sledge, a Chicago police officer,
whom they accuse of protecting gang members by telling them about police
activities. The others arrested, the prosecutors said, included members of
the gang's "board of directors," those who had their own heroin brands and
lower-level workers, from "shift supervisors" of the trade to transporters.
The raid took place as parallel investigations proceeded elsewhere. In
Wisconsin, officials of the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office said
Wednesday that they planned to re-examine six deaths caused by heroin
overdoses this year to see whether fentanyl might have been involved.
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