Cops Nab First Chicago Gang Members Under RICO Law

More than 40 senior members of the "Black Souls" street gang charged with running an open-air drug market in Chicago's West Garfield Park neighborhood

Authorities early Thursday morning rounded up more than 40 leaders and senior members of Chicago's "Black Souls" street gang in a first-of-its-kind sweep conducted under Illinois' new RICO statute.

The takedown targeted open-air drug markets around the intersection of West Madison Avenue and South Pulaski Road, in Chicago's West Garfield Park neighborhood. Authorities said the operation may have netted as much as $11 million a year.

Of the 41 arrested so far, 23 will be charged under the Street Gang Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations — also known as RICO — statute.

"This new tool allows us to, instead of just charging the individual with maybe one shooting, we're able to target these gang leaders and the entire gang itself," said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Among those arrested were the gang's top leader, Cornel Dawson, and other top tier members, including second-in-command Teron Odum, of what authorities are calling a "notoriously violent" group.

"First of all, it's not OK to sell narcotics," said Chicago police Supt. Garry McCarthy. "But if there's violence involved, we're going to come down on your organization quicker. We're going to knock out your organization and take money out of your pocket."

Illinois' RICO statute was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn a year ago. It allows top gang members to be charged with being part of a conspiracy, much as the federal government has done to crack down on organized crime.

"The FBI was very excited to be a part of this milestone case because we believe that RICO, whether it be state or federal, is one of the most powerful tools that can be used against violent criminal enterprises," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Corey Nelson.

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