A Chicago gang leader was sentenced on Wednesday to 30 years in federal prison for being the chief of a heroin ring that distributed large amounts of the dangerous drug in Chattanooga.
James Silas was sentenced by Judge Curtis Collier, who earlier presided over his trial.
Judge Collier also ordered the defendant to forfeit $600,000, representing proceeds of Silas’ illegal drug trafficking.
Prosecutor Kyle Wilson said Silas termed himself as the "Prince" of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords and provided heroin to Chattanooga drug dealers who regularly brought him $30,000 to $40,000 in cash.
He said Silas took over the organization in Illinois, Tennessee and some other areas after "King" Troy Martin was sentenced to a lengthy prison term. He said testimony at the trial showed that Silas required gang members to continue to pay dues that were shuttled to Martin in prison. Agents found letters written by Martin to Silas in which he praised him for taking over the gang.
DEA Agent William Wise testified that Silas put down several Orders to Kill on Sight, though he said none of them were carried out.
But he said he would also order beatings with or without the protection of a covering over the victim's face. A Chattanooga drug dealer who fell under his ire got one such beating after arriving at Silas' house, he said. The agent said one man was ordered to be beaten with a baseball bat and another who owed Silas money was kidnapped for two weeks until he came up with the cash.
The witness said as early as 2010 agents had Silas on their radar, saying he was going around carrying a gun and crack cocaine.
He said he began supplying heroin regularly to Chattanooga drug dealers Marlon Eberhardt and Jovani and Heather Robinson. He asked them to send him a list of recruits who would help in the heroin sales.
The agent said Silas sent the Hill brothers to Chattanooga from Chicago to help in the heroin trade.
After he was arrested, Silas was placed in jail at Fort Payne, Ala. Agent Wise said he was able to get two cell phones into his cell. When guards tried to take one of the phones from him he threw it into the toilet, then struck one guard in the face.
When asked if he had anything to say, Silas only said, "I won't be a danger to anyone. I just want to be with my family in peace."
“The Eastern District of Tennessee is experiencing a surge in drug abuse and overdose related deaths,” said U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey. “This 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.”
“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,” said Brett R. Pritts, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Nashville District Office. “I commend our law enforcement partners and the prosecutors for their extraordinary efforts in this case.”
This investigation was conducted by the DEA, in conjunction with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, and with the assistance of local and federal law enforcement agencies in the Chicago area.