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Feds Move to Indict Top Leaders Of Politically Strong Chicago Gang

By Judy Pasternak
Los Angeles Times
CHICAGO

Federal authorities moved Thursday to dismantle the leadership of one of the United States' most highly structured street gangs, Chicago's Gangster Disciples - a narcotics powerhouse that allegedly financed a political action committee that has sponsored huge downtown rallies and at least two city council candidacies.

Armed with indictments from a federal grand jury, police and federal agents made arrests throughout the South Side and suburbs, as well as within the state prison system. The indictments allege that the gang, using two boards of directors (one inside prison and one outside), laundered money from its enormous crack, cocaine, heroin and marijuana empire through 21st Century V.O.T.E. (for Voices of Total Empowerment).

The PAC has lobbied to get Gangster Disciples leader Larry Hoover, who was convicted in 1977 of ordering a drug dealer's murder, paroled from prison, enlisting prominent Chicagoans such as former mayor Eugene Sawyer in the effort. Hoover, 44, has been saying in recent years that he is a changed man, devoted to ending violence among black youth.

A 50-count indictment accuses him of masterminding the Gangster Disciples' operations over the telephone from his prison cell. He was flown early in the day from Dixon, Ill. to Meigs Field here for a transfer to federal custody.

The indictments, which seek the forfeiture of $10 million in profits, reel off a quarter-century's worth of crimes. In addition to Hoover, 38 others with nicknames such as "Khadafi," "Trouble" and "Governor Fool" are charged. One of the alleged co-conspirators, Sonia Irwin, is a Chicago police officer. Those indicted range in age from 21 to 48.

At a Thursday media conference about the relationship between the Gangster Disciples and 21st Century V.O.T.E., U.S. Attorney James B. Burns said: "They run it."

Representatives of the three-year-old PAC have been consulted by a mayoral candidate, civil rights groups and even President Clinton. Two men who had risen to prominent rank within the Gangster Disciples made it to run-off elections last spring for Chicago's board of aldermen. Their showing surprised the city's power structure, although each was eventually defeated.

Another local community outreach group, Save the Children Inc., was also named in the indictment. The Gangster Disciples forced members and nonmembers alike "under threats of violence" to buy tickets to a concert that Save the Children promoted, the document says. Save the Children is run by Hoover's wife, who was not indicted.

The investigation, begun in 1989, is continuing, Burns said. Federal prosecutors, narcotics, tax and firearms agents, corrections officials and police joined forces for the probe