Improper phone taps alleged in Lake County RICO case


The lawyer representing a man accused of leading a group of gang members charged in Lake County’s first RICO case filed a court motion Monday claiming the state’s attorney’s office improperly ordered telephone wiretaps.

“Operation Shut Down the Hustle” led to the arrests of 21 alleged members of the Four Corner Hustlers street gang, including Gregory Harris Sr., authorities announced in October 2014. According to a criminal complaint, Harris was the leader of the group.

A multiagency and months-long investigation, headed by an FBI-led task force, led to the recovery of drugs, guns and money, Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said in 2014.

The 21 people were charged under the Illinois Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Law (RICO), and face various charges under RICO guidelines related to murder and trafficking of guns, heroin, cocaine and prescription drugs.

On Monday, Harris’ lawyer, filed a motion claiming two assistant state’s attorneys ordered telephone “overhears” during the investigation even though their position does not allow them to do so under state law. Judge Victoria Rossetti is scheduled to hear the motion next Monday.

Roberts said the guidelines for such overhears — usually used in federal investigations — are very specific, and were not followed in the case against Harris.

Harris was released from federal prison shortly before being arrested on RICO charges of delivery of cocaine and street gang criminal drug conspiracy and enterprise. Harris was not a member of the Four Corner Hustlers — or any other gang — and “was not in charge of anything.”

Nerheim would not comment about the recent motion, but said several other defendants had also filed motions in the wake of the arrests.

The defendants are represented by a number of defense attorneys and public defenders, some of whom have raised civil rights issues.

Evidence in the case includes video and audio recordings, phone taps and testimony from undercover agents who infiltrated the gang, authorities said.

All of the arrests were coordinated between the FBI, the DEA, the Lake County sheriff’s office and the Mundelein, Zion and Waukegan police departments.