http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/loca ... story.html
(Link has photos.).
The Hobos street gang earned a reputation for ruthlessness, killing rivals and snitches to spread fear and maintain control of their lucrative cocaine, crack and heroin operations, federal prosecutors allege.
Look no further than Arnold Council, a reputed high-ranking member of the gang who was captured on an undercover recording defending the killing of informant Keith Daniels after he dared to cooperate with law enforcement, according to authorities. Daniels was no ordinary snitch — he was Council's brother.
Prosecutors said Daniels was shot 25 times in a brazen attack outside his home in front of his three young children. Authorities had moved him to the south suburbs in an effort to protect him from retaliation.
With seven Hobos scheduled to go to trial in September, prosecutors alleged for the first time this week that the gang was responsible for nine killings as well as countless shootings, robberies and home invasions. No gang has been charged in a federal indictment with that level of violence since the El Rukns two decades ago.
Among the fatal victims were two gang rivals who had just attended a funeral, a semipro basketball player who was mistaken for someone else, an innocent bystander from Los Angeles who was visiting relatives and an elderly woman who was killed in a car crash as police chased a fleeing Hobo member.
The killings took place between 2006 and 2013, but the court filing made public Tuesday provides a glimpse at the endemic gang violence that continues to plague Chicago this year with homicides and shootings both rising by about 50 percent.
"I would say they are on par with any level of gang violence from the Latin Kings to any other organization," said Steve Grimes, a former federal prosecutor who headed up the early investigation of the gang. "They were ruthless. Ask anybody from CPD. At their peak, they were running the city."
The 104-page prosecution filing alleged the Hobos represented a new breed of street gang that was made up of members from diverse gangs who were once rivals. Many of the Hobos started in the shuttered Robert Taylor public housing complex from factions of the Gangster Disciples and the Black Disciples street gangs, authorities have said.
The origin of the name is uncertain — possibly a reference to the loss of their homes after the razing of the Robert Taylor complex. But members called each other Hobo during conversations, got tattoos identifying themselves as Hobos and used a unique hand sign, authorities said.
The gang's criminal activity dates to at least 2004, authorities said. The Hobos quickly became so feared for their ruthlessness and violence, particularly on the South Side, that "they felt that they could put their drugs out for sale on any block in the city and nobody would give them problems," the filing said.
To back up its threats, the Hobos used high-powered guns, including assault rifles and handguns with 30-shot magazines — an unusual arsenal for a street gang, authorities said.
To enhance its street reputation, the gang carried out robberies and home invasions of drug dealers and other well-off targets, including Bobby Simmons, a former NBA player whose white gold necklace worth more than $200,000 was stolen from him at gunpoint in June 2006 outside a Chicago nightclub.
The Hobos had numerous violent disputes with other gang factions as well, tangling with the likes of the Fifth Ward Black Disciples, the New Town Black Disciples, the Gutterville Mickey Cobras and the Row Row Gangster Disciples over drug territory, authorities said.
"The Hobos' violence against rivals increased their reputation and allowed the Hobos to maintain their power on the streets, while decreasing the likelihood that other gang factions would seek to retaliate," the filing said.
Prosecutors will rely on undercover recordings, recorded calls of Hobo members to relatives and associates from state prison or Cook County Jail, and testimony by former gang members who are now cooperating in hopes of winning reduced prison sentences. Snippets of some of those recorded conversations were detailed in the filing.
Many of those witnesses have extensive criminal records — a point that defense lawyers are sure to highlight. At least one was a convicted murderer who was personally involved in much of the violence tied to the Hobos.
One key informant told authorities that the Hobos used multiple cars in robberies or shootings to block police if necessary and wore batting gloves or used hand sanitizer to prevent leaving gunshot residue on their hands.
Among those scheduled to go on trial Sept. 6 are Gregory "Bowlegs" Chester, who was considered the overall leader of the Hobos because of his connections to drug suppliers, authorities said. His nickname stemmed from a birth defect, but he ruled with an iron fist, they alleged.
Anyone who dared cooperate against the Hobos during their heyday faced the threat of death. In fact, the first and last homicides charged by authorities involved informants.
A drug dealer named Wilbert Moore was gunned down in January 2006 in front of a barbershop in the Bronzeville neighborhood because of his cooperation with authorities. The alleged gunman, Paris Poe, among the seven scheduled to go to trial, was accused of firing at Moore from a car at 43rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue after being tipped off that Moore would be there.
Eight months later, Chester was shot multiple times at a car wash at 76th Street and Vincennes Avenue. Poe fired back, authorities said, but an innocent bystander, Kevin Thompson, was fatally wounded. Thompson had traveled from Los Angeles to visit relatives here for his 42nd birthday.
Thompson's sister, Anthea Scott, reached by telephone Wednesday, said she knew little more than that her brother had been caught in the middle of a gun battle. She said her family would call police periodically but never was given any details.
Family members traveled to Chicago to see the crime scene in hopes of getting an idea of what happened, Scott said, but someone warned them to leave the area because it was a gang-infested.
"After a while, it just got so depressing for us," said Scott, 53. "We just said we'll leave it to God."
In December 2007, Eddie Moss Jr. had stepped outside the front door of his father's Englewood house early one morning when he was cut down by a barrage of gunfire.
His father, Eddie Sr., told reporters at the time that he made it outside to see his son take his last breath.
The younger Moss, 24, was a semipro basketball player in Portugal who had come home after his mother's death and was waiting to hear from his agent where he would play overseas next.
According to authorities, an alleged Hobo named Byron Brown had ordered an unarmed Moss down on the ground and emptied his pistol into Moss, killing him execution-style. The shooting was in retaliation for the wounding of a Hobos member — a man who is now expected to be a key witness against the gang at the upcoming trial.
It turned out that Moss was killed after being mistakenly targeted as a rival gang member.
Another innocent victim of the gang was an elderly woman who was killed in July 2008 when an SUV driven by a Hobo crashed into her car while being chased by Chicago police.
Tommye Ruth Freeman was driving in the 7600 block of South State Street when the SUV containing Hobos ran a red light. Authorities said the Hobos were fleeing from police after committing a home invasion of a suspect drug dealer.
Brown, the alleged driver, was convicted of murder in Freeman's death in 2012 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
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