May 12, 2006

3 Arrested in Drug Case: U.S. Charges Outline Crack Ring in DuPage

By Angela Rozas and David Heinzmann, Chicago Tribune

May 12--Authorities have broken up a large-scale drug ring in the western suburbs, netting a Naperville man whose operation sold huge amounts of crack and powder cocaine to a wide range of customers, including suburban housewives, a correctional officer and a grocery manager, authorities say.

Thomas M. Sirtoff was the leader of a ring selling cocaine, crack, and guns in at least two counties--DuPage and Kankakee--and Wisconsin, according to an affidavit filed by a federal agent in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Tuesday.

Sirtoff, whom officials say is one of the major crack cocaine dealers in DuPage County, his girlfriend who lived at his address and a Kankakee man were charged with drug crimes after a multi-agency undercover investigation. Investigators with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives learned of the alleged ring from confidential informants.

Sirtoff, 28, of the 1000 block of Heritage Hill Drive, Naperville, ran his drug business using a number of apartments, vehicles, cell-phone lines, pushers and nightclub dancers to move the drugs and guns, according to the filing. The operation was selling about 3 kilos per week, worth about $90,000, to hundreds of customers, bureau spokesman Thomas Ahern said.

According to the affidavit, Sirtoff's girlfriend, Ciji Harris, 22, got the drugs from her sources and then the two often cooked bags of powdered cocaine in their home for resale as crack cocaine. Harris also is accused of conspiring with Sirtoff to get a valid firearm owners identification card, so that she could buy guns they could then sell. Sirtoff also used guns he acquired to intimidate drug sellers who didn't pay their debt on time, according to the filing.

Authorities also charged Donald Endicott, 47, of the 100 block of West Mertens Street, Kankakee, with distributing Sirtoff's cocaine. A fourth individual, Antoin Battle, 31, of Crest Hill was named in the complaint as a seller but remains at large, police said.

Sirtoff and Harris appeared before U.S. Judge Michael Mason in Chicago on Thursday on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. They were ordered held without bond, pending a hearing Tuesday. Endicott is in state custody on unrelated charges.

Federal agents worked with the DuPage County Metropolitan Enforcement Group, or DuMEG, a number of local police departments and Illinois State Police; the Midwest Organized Crime Center provided a grant.

DuMEG Director Tony Rapacz said Sirtoff's ring was one of the largest in the county, but not as large as the man allegedly bragged.

The affidavit described taped meetings between Sirtoff and undercover informants, during which Sirtoff allegedly described his business, saying he kept shoeboxes of money hidden in his home. He also told his sellers how to hide drugs in case police stopped them and debated whether he would bail out another member of his drug ring, thinking the other member was getting too powerful, according to the filing.

At one point, Sirtoff told an informant that he wanted to take over the drug trade in nearby Bolingbrook, with customers lining up like "a soup line" to buy his drugs, according to the filing. None of the accused was involved in gangs, Rapacz said.

"These guys are some major players," Rapacz said. "They thought they were a little bigger than they were. That's OK. That's what gets them caught."

Authorities estimated the investigation yielded about a kilo of cocaine in a number of undercover buys.

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