A gang leader from Chicago has been sentenced to 30 years in jail for his role in a Chattanooga heroin ring.
On Wednesday, local federal judge Curtis Collier also ordered 51-year-old James Silas, of Dolton, Illinois, to serve five years of supervised release once his prison sentence ends, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Beginning in 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted a series of court-authorized wiretaps on phones belonging to gang members as a part of an investigation into heroin distribution in and around Chattanooga, the release states.
During the investigation, they learned about Silas' role. He was arrested in Illinois and brought to Tennessee for trial.
On Nov. 13, 2018, after a five-day jury trial, Silas was convicted of conspiring to distribute 1 kilogram or more of heroin.
At the sentencing hearing, the release states, witnesses testified that Silas was the leader of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords gang. Silas used the gang to develop a network of heroin distributors in several cities, including Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, Atlanta and elsewhere. He provided his subordinate gang members with what came to be known as "Chicago Gray," a form of heroin, the release states. The subordinates sold the drugs to other dealers and addicts. Witnesses testified that tens of thousands of dollars at a time were transported from Tennessee to Silas' Illinois residence in payment for heroin.
Collier ordered the defendant to forfeit $600,000, representing proceeds of Silas' illegal drug trafficking.
"The Eastern District of Tennessee is experiencing a surge in drug abuse and overdose related deaths," said James Douglas Overbey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, in a statement. "[The] sentencing is an example of how our office is working with our law enforcement partners to prosecute those who are trafficking in and distributing these illegal drugs into our region, putting the citizens of East Tennessee in danger."
Brett R. Pritts, assistant special agent in charge of DEA's Nashville district office, praised law enforcement efforts in the case, adding, "The Drug Enforcement Administration and our law enforcement partners remain committed to targeting interstate heroin traffickers and gang members that are contributing to the nation's opioid epidemic."
The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and local and federal law enforcement agencies in the Chicago area assisted in the investigation, the release states.