Ten defendants charged in drug trafficking probe targeting fentanyl-laced heroin sales in Chicago


Date: October 20, 2022

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

CHICAGO — A federal drug trafficking investigation has resulted in charges against ten individuals for allegedly conspiring to distribute at least 35 kilograms of fentanyl-laced heroin and crack cocaine on the West Side of Chicago.

During the multi-year probe, law enforcement seized more than a kilogram of narcotics, as well as 13 firearms and more than $40,000 in suspected illicit proceeds. The investigation, led by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation Division, and Chicago Police Department, utilized covert surveillance operations, controlled narcotics purchases, and wiretapped communications to shut down the defendants' drug trafficking activities, which were centered mainly in Chicago's North Austin neighborhood.

Many of the defendants were arrested this week and have begun making initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

The federal charges were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Justin Campbell, Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; Ashley T. Johnson, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI; and David Brown, Superintendent of CPD. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erin Kelly and Simar Khera represent the government.

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles drug traffickers and other alleged criminal offenders that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against alleged criminal networks.

Charged with a federal drug conspiracy are Carlos James, Samuel Brooks, Paurice Rose, Donald Williams, Vashon James, David Lamb, Felicia Singleton, Thomas Birt, Avis Knight and Haydee Cano, all of Chicago. Brooks is also charged with illegally possessing a handgun as a previously convicted felon.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Carlos James led a drug trafficking organization that distributed at least 35 kilograms of fentanyl-laced heroin and at least 1.1 kilograms of crack cocaine to street-level customers in Chicago from April 2021 to August 2022.

Carlos James allegedly worked with Rose and Williams to prepare and package the drugs for distribution on the street. The drug trafficking organization used multiple "stash houses" in Chicago, including residences in the 1700 block of North Mango Avenue and the 1600 and 1700 blocks of North Mayfield Avenue, to store the narcotics and the cash proceeds, the complaint alleges. Brooks served as a street-level manager of the organization, providing narcotics to Lamb, Singleton, Birt, Knight, and Cano to sell to customers on the street, the charges allege. Vashon James allegedly prepared crack cocaine and collected the proceeds after the sales.

During the probe, law enforcement executed court-authorized searches of the stash houses and other locations and worked with a cooperating source to make nine controlled purchases of narcotics from the defendants' organization.

The public is reminded that a complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.