Federal law enforcement seized more than 14 kilograms of cocaine and 15 firearms as part of an investigation that dismantled a Texas-to-Chicago narcotics pipeline and resulted in charges against ten defendants.
During the investigation, dubbed “Operation Grapevine,” authorities shut down a drug stash house in a lakefront condominium in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago. In addition to the cocaine and guns, law enforcement seized approximately $215,000 in cash, and gold and diamond jewelry with an estimated value of more than $30,000.
Arrests of the defendants were recently carried out in Illinois and Texas.
The charges were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Robert J. Bell, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; Timothy Jones, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Larry L. Lapp, acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI; James M. Gibbons, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; and Eddie Johnson, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.
Substantial assistance was provided by the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Marshals Service, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and Illinois State Police. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly Guzman, Katherine Neff Welsh and Brian Kerwin.
The probe was led by the Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program (HIDTA), with support from the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The programs partner with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations.
According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Chicago, Darrin Pulphus, age 50, of Tinley Park, is the leader of a drug trafficking organization that obtained and distributed at least 23 kilograms of cocaine in the Chicago area in a three-month period earlier this year. Pulphus obtained the drugs at least twice a month from a Texas-based supplier, Curtis Pope, age 40, of Houston, Texas, the complaint states. Pope allegedly transported the cocaine from Texas in a semi-trailer truck. Another Texas resident, Shawn Turner, age 37, of Houston, Texas, helped facilitate the shipments, often flying from Houston to Chicago to assist Pulphus, the complaint states.
Once in the Chicago area, Pope delivered the drugs to Pulphus or other members of his crew at a truck yard in south suburban Riverdale, according to the complaint. Pulphus then allegedly worked with various distributors to sell the drugs in the Chicago area. The complaint charges four alleged distributors: David Bowden, 51; DeShawn Walls, 34; Darrell Williams, 45; and Lawrence Johnson, 38; all of Chicago. Law enforcement seized a handgun and more than 900 grams of cocaine from Johnson after he obtained narcotics from Pulphus in April 2019, the complaint states.
The complaint also charges two alleged wholesale customers of Pulphus’s organization: Rome Perkins, 60, and Edward Humhrey, 53, both of Chicago. The tenth defendant, Richard Howard, 50, of Chicago, allegedly conspired with Pulphus in the distribution of cocaine.
All of the defendants have made initial appearances in federal court. Johnson and Walls remain detained in federal custody, while Pulphus, Pope, Bowden, Williams, Howard, Humphrey, Turner and Perkins were ordered released on bond.
The U.S. Attorneys Northern District of Illinois reminded the public that a complaint contains only accusations 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. If convicted, the Court must impose reasonable sentences under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
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