(STMW) — Thirteen alleged members of two drug distribution rings were arrested Tuesday by a federal task force in the culmination of a lengthy investigation into drug distribution in the south suburbs.

The charges announced Wednesday were laid out in two criminal complaints filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, which were unsealed late Tuesday, according to a release from the FBI.

They charged 12 area residents with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of heroin. Four others were charged with violating state drug laws in charges filed in Cook and Will counties. Three additional defendants remain at-large and are now the subject of a nationwide manhunt, the release said.

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According to one of the complaints, Jose Sandoval, 30, of 2136 E. 221st Street in Sauk Village supplied wholesale quantities of heroin to Nicholas Lacy, aka “Pork”, 32, of 21506 Peterson in Sauk Village. Lacy allegedly controlled a drug distribution operation based in Robbins.

The complaint alleges Sandoval routinely provided half-pound and greater quantities of heroin to Lacy, who would re-package the drugs in individual user quantities, usually 0.1 gram bags, which were sold in and around 138th and Kedvale in Robbins.

The complaint alleges Lacy’s drug ring operated seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., selling as much as $3,000 worth of heroin daily.

The second complaint charges 31-year-old Eric Ridgner, aka “Torry,” of 3459 Orchid Dr. in Dyer, Ind., with running a similar heroin distribution ring, which operated in Harvey.

Ridgner was allegedly supplied wholesale amounts of heroin by Lacy, which he re-packaged and sold in individual user amounts, usually in 0.1 gram bags and sold on the streets of the south suburb.

FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Robert Grant said the use of heroin has reached unprecedented levels in the Chicago area.

“The key targets of this investigation were major suppliers of drugs that not only destroyed lives, but destroyed neighborhoods – and most often, not neighborhoods where they lived,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said in the release.

“The tentacles of their operations stretched from the most impoverished street corners to suburban luxury subdivisions. It takes years of hard work to disrupt a distribution network that complex, but we’re under no illusions that the activity has simply stopped,” Dart said.

Others charged in the federal complaints included:

— Marcus Gillespie, 21, of 14843 Edbrooke in Dolton;

— Candice Jeffries, 23, of 15839 Lexington Avenue in Harvey;

— Michael Knight, 44, of 16009 S. Halsted in Harvey;

— Chuanice Loving, 28, of 20158 Ash Lane in Lynwood;

— Resean Ridgner, 24, of 16235 S. Ashland in Markham;

— Desmond Scott, 20, of 4121 W. 138th St. in Robbins;

— Lawrence Scott, 30, of 13753 Kildare in Midlothian;

— Derrick Thigpen, 23, of 4134 W. Midlothian Turnpike in Robbins;

— Cheronda Wallace, 24, of 2215 E. 175th St. in Lansing.

Marcus Gillespie, Resean Ridgner and Desmond Scott eluded capture and remain at-large.

Those arrested on state charges were Mildred Gassensmith, 31, of 911 Campbell in Joliet; Neil Lester, 30, of 16672 Beacon Ln. in Orland Park; Alexander Lys, 18, of 525 Carla Dr. in Shorewood; and William Woods, 26, of 16952 Blue Heron Dr. in Orland Park.

“Operation J Down” was investigated by the Chicago FBI’s South Suburban Violent Crimes Task Force, which is comprised of FBI Special Agents and investigators from the Cook County Sheriff’s Dept., and the Joliet and Orland Park police.

Court-authorized electronic surveillance of several phones used by the defendants were used during the investigation, which yielded nearly 500 individual packets of heroin and in excess of $200,000 in cash, the release said.

All those arrested on federal charges appeared before Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown in Chicago late Tuesday. Six were granted bond, while three were ordered held without bond, pending their next court appearances Friday. If convicted, they face up to life in prison.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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