CHICAGO — The leader of a drug trafficking organization has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for supplying heroin to an illegal open-air market on the West Side of Chicago. He could have been sentenced to life in prison.
Levaughn Collins, also known as “Sweet Bobby,” obtained bulk quantities of heroin and provided it to numerous associates, who, at Collins’s direction, processed and packaged the drugs for street-level sales. Many of the sales occurred at an illegal open-air market in the 3700 block of West Grenshaw Street in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood.
Collins obtained significant profits from the sale of multiple kilograms of heroin. During the investigation, law enforcement conducted a court-authorized search of his residence and discovered a Maserati automobile, $50,000 in cash, and more than $400,000 worth of jewelry. A search of another location which Collins utilized to stash the heroin revealed ten firearms, many of which were loaded and equipped with extended magazines.
Collins, 41, of Chicago, pleaded guilty in 2019 to federal drug and firearm charges. U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman imposed the prison sentence Tuesday after a hearing in federal court in Chicago.
The sentence was 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 Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; and David Brown, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. The multi-agency investigation was supported by the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA) Initiative. Substantial assistance was provided by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago.
“The defendant financed his lifestyle by taking advantage of those addicted to heroin,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott M. Edenfield and Jared C. Jodrey argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “Drug trafficking, at any level, is a serious offense that has well-documented deleterious effects not only on traffickers and users, but on the community at large.”
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Over six years ago, forty-two defendants were facing state or federal narcotics charges for their alleged roles in supplying and distributing heroin in the area of West Grenshaw Street and Independence Boulevard, in the North Lawndale neighborhood on the city’s west side. An investigation led by officers of the Chicago Police Department and agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration assigned to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (“HIDTA”) Task Force, resulted in federal charges against 16 defendants and state charges against 26 others, who police and federal agents began arresting early Wednesday morning, June 24, 2015.
Twelve firearms, approximately $50,000, nearly a half-kilogram of heroin, and over one-half kilogram of cocaine were seized Wednesday morning during the arrests of 32 of the charged defendants. The remaining defendants are either in custody or at large. Additionally, over one and a half kilograms of heroin were seized during the course of the investigation from last August through this month. Early today, Chicago police, DEA agents, and other HIDTA law enforcement partners also executed seven search warrants upon several defendants’ residences and three alleged stash houses, and seized two vehicles, including Levaughn Collins’ 2014 Maserati, Gran Turismo.
The federal defendants were charged with conspiracy, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute narcotics in five separate criminal complaints that were filed yesterday in U.S. District Court and unsealed following the arrests. The federal defendants were scheduled to begin appearing at 3 p.m. Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez in U.S. District Court. The 26 state defendants face charges ranging from Class 1 to Class X Delivery of a Controlled Substance and face a potential sentencing range of four to 30 years in prison upon conviction. The state defendants were expected to appear in bond court Wednesday afternoon at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building in Chicago.
According to a 230-page affidavit in support of the federal arrests and search warrants, the investigation revealed that James Triplett, also known as “Trell,” 33, of Berkley, controlled the distribution of heroin in the area of the 3700 block of West Grenshaw Street, in the North Lawndale neighborhood west of Douglas Park. Triplett allegedly assigned responsibility for the heroin distribution on the block that he controlled to specific individuals, who further delegated distribution to shift workers who sold heroin throughout the day.
Triplett obtained his heroin largely from supplier, Levaughn Collins, then age 34, of Chicago, who along with his narcotics associates, obtained wholesale quantities of heroin which they mixed and packaged for distribution to buyers like Triplett who then subsequently sold the heroin on the street in the area of the 3700 block of West Grenshaw Street.
The area is just south of the Interstate 290 Eisenhower Expressway corridor that has been referred to as the “Heroin Highway” because of the accessibility it provides to city and suburban heroin customers.
“The Chicago HIDTA is a powerful collaboration of local, state, and federal law enforcement which concentrates its efforts on both narcotics suppliers and street-level distributors,” said Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. “This investigation and arrests associated with this open air drug market demonstrate how effective teamwork by law enforcement agencies can significantly reduce the flow of narcotics into our communities,” he said.
“This operation demonstrates how police and prosecutors are continuing to work together to dig in at the local level and hammer away at the drug markets plaguing our local communities,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. “Once again, we are pleased to join our state and federal law enforcement partners in these ongoing and coordinated efforts.”
“Investigating, charging and arresting heroin dealers is priority number one,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Wichern. “Too many lives in Chicagoland are forever lost due to heroin use. I’m proud of the work done by these agents, officers and prosecutors, who worked tirelessly to achieve these results and I’m confident that with our continued partnership, we will have increasing success.”
“IRS Criminal Investigation was an integral part of today’s law enforcement events by investigating the financial aspects of these investigations,” added Special Agent-in-Charge Boyd from IRS/CID (Criminal Investigations Division).
The complaint affidavit alleges that Triplett was a wholesale supplier of heroin who, through his drug trafficking organization, ran the heroin trade in the area of the 3700 block of West Grenshaw Street. The complaint further alleges that Triplett tasked his narcotics associates with different responsibilities ranging from picking up and transporting the packaged heroin for subsequent distribution, to running the daily operations of the Grenshaw drug spot, to collecting proceeds from heroin sales there. The Triplett drug trafficking organization employed individuals, like Marcetteaus McGee, aka “Antonio,” and aka “Keitho,” 31, of Chicago; Christopher Tidwell, aka “Gov,” 42, of Chicago; James Smith, aka “J Dub,” 35, of Chicago; and Chiquita Jackson, 29, of Chicago, to manage the Grenshaw drug spot and advise Triplett when resupply was needed, to shuttle heroin among the various stash and retail locations, and to return his share of the profits to him. The organization employed street-level workers responsible for the retail sale of its heroin such as Jackie Tyler, 29, of Chicago.
Levaughn Collins, a wholesale supplier to the Triplet drug trafficking organization, and others, operated his heroin distribution from his main stash house at 561 East 103rd Place, as well as specific locations such as 2936 West Warren Boulevard, the charges allege. Other defendants, including Larry Collins, aka “Scooter,” 38, of Chicago, Jimmy Bell, aka “Dirt,” 38, of Chicago; Lamel Burns, aka “Slim,” 38, of Dolton; and Kevin Gardnerl, aka “Bo,” 35 of Chicago, allegedly assisted Levaughn Collins in diluting the heroin to increase profits and packaging the heroin into smaller, user-sized quantities for street-resale. Heroin packaged and distributed by Collins’s organization was typically packaged in small user-portion plastic bags with orange basketballs, purple lady logos, green Playboy bunnies, Hershey’s kisses, or black panda bear symbols stamped on them.
One federal complaint charges twelve defendants ― James Triplett, Levaughn Collins, Larry Collins, Jimmy Bell, Lamel Burns, Kevin Gardner, Christopher Tidwell, Marcetteaus McGee, James Smith, Chiquette Jackson, Jackie Tyler and Anton Higgins, aka “Spud,” 35, of Chicago ― with conspiracy to possess and distribute more than a kilogram of heroin. If convicted, they each faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment and a $10 million fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office statement in 2015.
Donald McIntosh, aka “Donnie,” 40, of Chicago, and NEKENYA HARDY, aka “Keefy,” 36, of Berwyn, were charged separately with being heroin customers of Levaughn Collins. If convicted, McIntosh faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years and a $5 million fine and Hardy faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office statement in 2015.
Angeles Avalos, 32, of Chicago, was also charged separately with being a heroin supplier to Levaughn Collins. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years and a $5 million fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office statement in 2015.
Deonte Thomas, aka “12th Street,” 25, of Chicago, was also charged separately with distributing heroin in the 3700 block of West Grenshaw Street. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years and a $5 million fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office statement in 2015.
The 27 state defendants, charged for their alleged roles in supplying and distributing heroin are: Carl Austin, Demario Butler, Dejon Carr, Lavora Childress, DeWayne Cook, Johnny Corbin, Simeon CURRIE, Deandre CURRY, Marquita Davis, Orlando Edwards, Terrell HARRIS, Willie Hughes, Eric Jacksono, Coshawndra Jenkins, Eric Lemon, Andre Minor, Bernard Person, Darryl Pleasant, Donald Rogers, Floyd SHAW, Kenneth Smith, Loenard Smith, Timesha Washington, Leonard White, Dominick Williams and Jasons Woods.
Assistant United States Attorneys Katherine A. Sawyer and Andrew K. Polovin are representing the government in the federal cases. Assistant State’s Attorney Aaron R. Bond is prosecuting the state cases.
The public is reminded that complaints contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.