By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The head of a Chicago street gang faction and 34 others were arrested and charged on Thursday with taking part in a high-volume drug business that sold heroin and crack cocaine near a major highway, prosecutors said.
Johnny Herndon, 55, also known as "Goo," allegedly directed a "Gangster Disciples" operation that has sold narcotics on the city's west side since the early 1990s, and used the proceeds to buy rental properties, prosecutors said.
Herndon's territory was "particularly lucrative," due to heavy customer traffic and its proximity to the Eisenhower Expressway - a major thoroughfare through the third-largest U.S. city into the western suburbs, the U.S. Attorney's office said in a statement.
The group sold 540 quarter-gram rocks of crack cocaine daily from two square-block "drug spots," for an average of $5,400, using violence, guns and threats to control the territory, prosecutors said.
"This operation strikes a direct blow to the open air drug markets operating on our city's west side and the gang members who have been profiting from this insidious and violent trade," said Anita Alvarez, Cook County state's attorney, in a statement.
The Chicago west side has been the site of frequent gang-related and other shootings and homicides.
Twenty of the defendants, including Herndon, face federal charges while 15 face state charges. The arrests were announced jointly by federal and county prosecutors and the Chicago Police.
Herndon bought mostly multiunit rental properties. They generate more than $20,000 a month in rent and include some subsidized units, prosecutors said.
About 16 firearms, $10,000, more than half a kilogram of heroin, and hundreds of grams of crack cocaine and other drugs were seized in the investigation.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski)