A federal jury in Chicago found the reputed head of the Wicked Town street gang and an associate guilty on racketeering, firearm and drug charges after prosecutors presented evidence showing the gang was responsible for at least 19 homicides.
Donald Lee, 40, and Torance Benson, 30, were each found guilty Tuesday following a two-month trial in Chicago’s federal court building after prosecutors said they each participated in a criminal organization that murdered rivals and violently protected a drug-dealing operation on the city’s West Side.
“This was truly a remarkable case,” U.S. Attorney John Lausch said during a press conference after the convictions were announced, noting that prosecutors called more than 100 witnesses and entered more than 1,000 exhibits at trial. “There’s not many gang cases like this one.”
Thirteen people were initially charged in the case, following a yearslong investigation, Lausch said. Eleven of those defendants previously pleaded guilty, leaving just Lee and Benson to stand trial.
Lausch said Lee was held responsible directly for three murders and for providing the firearms used in three other murders, while Benson was held responsible for one murder and three attempted murders.
At trial, prosecutors said they presented evidence showing the Wicked Town gang participated in at least 19 murders, 19 attempted murders, several armed robberies and assaults.
Prosecutors said the gang threatened and intimidated victims and witnesses to keep them from cooperating with law enforcement, while boasting about shootings and homicides on social media. The gang, which operated primarily in Austin, was also accused of operating “trap houses” to store firearms and illegal narcotics, including cocaine and heroin.
During an extensive investigation, law enforcement seized more than 45 firearms, approximately 1,000 rounds of ammunition, approximately 17 kilograms of cocaine, approximately seven kilograms of heroin and approximately 100 grams of crack cocaine.
“The investigative team … removed a truly significant violent organization from the streets of Chicago,” Jeffrey Matthews, acting special agent-in-charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, said Tuesday. “Through this case, they removed drivers of violence — trigger pullers — and helped make the streets of Chicago a safer place for residents here.”
Lee faces a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison, while Benson’s convictions carry a maximum potential sentence of life. Their sentencing dates have not yet been set.