SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) - Authorities said over 20 gang members and other suspects are accused of conspiring to distribute deadly drugs, including fentanyl, in the Springfield area. 

Federal prosecutors said over 20 suspects who involve Springfield street gang members and associates, along with other people, have been indicted on federal and state drug trafficking and related charges in the last week from Dec. 23. Charges accuse the suspects of being engaged "in various capacities to distribute drugs, including cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl" in 2019 and 2020 in Springfield, per a press release. 

A total of 15 of the suspects had been arrested as of Wednesday afternoon. A list of the suspects, sent to media outlets by federal prosecutors, is attached to this story as a PDF document.

A press release from prosecutors said the suspects are charged with conspiracy to distribute "large quantities of deadly drugs, including fentanyl." Charges include conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, along with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, crack and heroin, per prosecutors. 

If convicted, suspects could face penalties of up to life behind bars.

Two defendants, Derrick Bailey and Denziel Witherspoon, have special findings in the indictment against them for prior federal convictions for possession with intent to distribute drugs. Three defendants, including Bailey, D. Witherspoon and Cooper, are charged with possession of a firearm to go along with a drug trafficking charge. 

The possession of a firearm charge carries a statutory penalty of five years to life in prison, which must be served consecutively to any sentence handed down for the underlying drug offense, the release said. 

An ongoing joint effort by federal, state and local law enforcement officials had worked to address drug trafficking and related violence in Springfield. The Drug Enforcement Administration, Springfield police, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Illinois State Police have been involved in this investigation.

“These charges represent another chapter in the cooperative effort to disrupt drug distribution and violence in Springfield,” stated U.S. Attorney John Milhiser. “This is an ongoing operation and we will continue to identify, prosecute, and take off the streets those who seek to cause harm in our communities.”

The following statement came from Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow: 

"First and foremost, I would like to recognize the cooperative effort of law enforcement in Sangamon County for this multi-month, multi-jurisdictional investigation. It is widely known among law enforcement in Springfield that gangs, guns, and illegal sales of narcotics are intermingled with other criminal activity. These individuals and their associates have wreaked havoc on our community for far to long by distributing dangerous drugs to our citizens and others while being involved in other illegal and violent activity.

"While this is an ongoing investigation and we anticipate additional arrests, let this be a strong message to those involved in criminal activity that law enforcement in Sangamon County continues to work together to remove and hold responsible parties accountable for such crimes."

Prosecutors said this effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. 

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