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SHERIFF’S INVESTIGATION NETS GANG LEADERS, GUN/DRUG TRAFFICKERS

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Thursday, October 29, 2009 — More than 100 people were arrested and more than $100,000 in guns, drugs and cash were seized during a six-month police investigation targeting northwest suburban crime, Sheriff Tom Dart announced at a Thursday press conference.

The investigation, dubbed “Operation Room Service,” focused on criminal activity going on at many of the motels and hotels along the Mannheim Road corridor just south of O’Hare International Airport. The area, long a destination site for prostitution, has seen a shift in recent months toward more drug and gun trafficking, according to investigators.

“No one deserves to live around the kind of criminal activity that has been brazenly going on in broad daylight in this area,” Dart said. “We’ve taken out several key figures responsible for gun and drug trafficking and have developed new informants as a result of this investigation who are now helping us take out even higher-level dealers.”

The investigation began when sheriff’s gang officers were tipped in April to a load of illegal guns being sold from the Lido Motel, 2415 N. Mannheim Rd., Franklin Park. Those arrests led to information about others selling guns and drugs in the area and undercover work began.

Residents living in that area pointed out specific areas of complaints this summer at a town hall meeting convened by Dart in unincorporated Leyden Township. That prompted investigators, already working undercover, to begin to target specific areas and people based on those complaints.

Drug dealers, undercover officers learned, had begun moving into the neighborhood because of the steady stream of traffic provided by drug-addicted prostitutes prevalent in the area, as well as suburban teens with easy access to cash. Rather than conducting deals with those drug addicts on city street corners, many city drug dealers moved their operations to suburban motels.

Those dealers indicated to undercover officers that they were making as much – or more – money than they were in the city, with less police pressure when they were dealing from inconspicuous motel rooms in unincorporated areas of the county. But as officers arrested those street level dealers, they developed informants and leads on higher level dealers supplying loads of cocaine, marijuana and heroin to the area.

Among the 60 arrested on gun or drug charges, Dart specifically pointed to the arrests of Juan Charo, 53, of Stone Park, Jose Valles-Sanchez, 32, of Stone Park, Carnell Johnson, 37, of Bellwood and Alexis Cruz, 29, of Northlake, as being key figures in the drug trafficking operations in the area.

In addition to that work done by the Sheriff’s Central Gang Crimes Unit, the Sheriff’s Vice Unit was also conducting undercover prostitution operations at some of the same motels and along the same Mannheim Road strip. Prostitutes were picked up both on street corners and off craigslist, while johns were arrested by undercover female officers working along Mannheim Road.

Among the 58 arrested in that sting were a wealthy businessman on his way to conduct a seminar and a septic tank cleaning man who had just finished several jobs at the airport. All men arrested in the sting had to pay a $500 county ordinance fee, as well as a $500 towing fee, plus administrative costs before they could be released.

All told, police seized 18 guns and 2,000 rounds of ammunition and made 52 undercover drug buys. Officers seized 259 grams of cocaine, with a street value of almost $10,000, and 2,219 grams of marijuana, with a street value of almost $45,000. Police also seized more than $35,000 in cash.        

Three targets of the investigation remain at large: Tuwayne Bell, 38, of Stone Park, Frank Mandanici, 56, of Lombard, and Roger Murray, 54, of North Riverside.
“We hadn’t realized just how much gun and drug trafficking had infiltrated this area of Cook County,” Dart said. “But now, thanks to the new informants and leads we have developed as a result of this investigation, we have more information than ever before about the drug trade in Leyden Township and northwest suburban Cook County. These arrests are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Dart thanked officers from the Sheriff’s Central Gangs Unit, Vice Unit, as well as officers from the Stone Park, Franklin Park and Melrose Park police departments, while also expressing appreciation for the support given from elected officials in Leyden Township.

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