BRONZEVILLE — The indictment and prosecution of 33 West Side gang members with "a penchant for narcotics traffic" and murder is underway, local and federal authorities said Wednesday afternoon.
All of the arrests included high-ranking members of the Insane Imperial Vice Lords and included the gang's highest-ranking member, the "King," Nathaniel Hoskins — who controlled the group's violence and its various Chicago drug markets, part-time from Las Vegas, police said.
Hoskins spent about 65 percent of his time with his family near Las Vegas and the rest operating the gang from Chicago, which included managing the "Don," "Prince," and "Universal Elite" members of the group's hierarchy, authorities said Wednesday.
"As I like to say, this is a great day for the good guy," said Jack Riley, special agent-in-charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Chicago Field Division.
The 33 gang members — a 34th whom police have yet to arrest — are responsible for at least three murders, Riley said. State and local law enforcement has arrested 68 Insane Imperial Vice Lord members over the last several years, Riley added, noting that 60 guns have also been recovered by police during the investigation.
An indictment released Wednesday alleges at least one murder by Hoskins' request in 2011 and connects him to several drug markets across the Midwest, including the "Keystone Drug Market" near Thomas and Keystone streets in Humboldt Park, where part of an alleged 1,000 grams of heroin at Hoskins' disposal was sold.
Whereas traditional police drug and gang busts might end with a pile of recovered drugs and guns presented on a table, police Supt. Garry McCarthy said his strategy is focused on "how to dismantle organizations" — including the use of federal RICO charges, as was the case with Wednesday's gang bust.
According to Nick Roti, chief of the Chicago Police Department's Organized Crime Bureau, the 33 arrests took out the Insane Imperial Vice Lords' "top shelf of hierarchy" leaving them "pretty much crippled."
Despite a reluctant "shift to his primary message," the superintendent linked Wednesday's gun and gang bust to a wider push for stricter gun sentencing in Chicago.
"[The Insane Imperial Vice Lords] was truly an elephant," he said, referencing the well-known parable of blind men touching an elephant and describing its different parts without identifying the elephant itself. Though McCarthy said the bust will affect street-level conditions for Chicago, he said the degree to which residents will see a change on the streets "is hard to judge."
"Today, these dangerous criminals face serious time in federal prison," McCarthy said. "This case is an example and should serve as a warning."