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Heroin Gang 'Prince' Sentenced to 30 Years in Federal Prison

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WATE) – The "Prince" of a reputed heroin distribution gang that supplied drugs to Knoxville and other cities in Tennessee was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison Wednesday.

Witnesses testified in the sentencing hearing that James Siler, 51, of Dolton, Ill., was the leader of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords, a nationwide violent street gang.

As the “Prince” of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords, Silas used the gang to develop a network of heroin distributors in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, Atlanta and elsewhere, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

Supplier of 'Chicago Gray'

Silas provided his subordinate gang members with what came to be known as "Chicago Gray," a form of heroin that rapidly became highly desired among users, the Justice Department said.

RELATED: Gangs of Knoxville: How the law is trying to bring justice to the lawless

The subordinates sold the heroin to other drug dealers as well as to addicts. Witnesses testified that tens of thousands of dollars at a time were transported from Tennessee to Silas’ Illinois residence in payment for heroin.

U.S. District Court Judge Curtis L. Collier sentenced Silas to 30 years followed by five years of supervised release for conspiring to distribute heroin. He also ordered the Silas to forfeit $600,000.

Wiretaps conducted in 2016

Beginning in 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted a series of court-authorized wiretaps on a number of telephones belonging to gang members as a component of an investigation into heroin distribution in and around Chattanooga.

RELATED: Gang member sentenced to 75 years in store clerk pistol-whipping case

Through these wiretaps, the DEA discovered the involvement of Silas in this interstate conspiracy, the Justice Department said. He was arrested in Illinois and brought to Tennessee for trial in November. he was convicted of was convicted to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin.

“The Eastern District of Tennessee is experiencing a surge in drug abuse and overdose-related deaths,” said U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey. “Today’s 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.”

Surge of drug abuse in East Tennessee

“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.

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