Notorious West Side Chicago drug dealer busted

By Bill Dwyer for Chronicle Media

Raymond “Shakey Shawn” Betts circa 2004. (Photo courtesy of the Illinois Department of Corrections)

“I know I ain’t going to be around forever. You dig what I’m saying?” 52-year-old gang leader Raymond “Shakey Shawn” Betts was recorded saying to a gang associate on a federal undercover tape last December.

Agents from a federal gang and drug task force listening in were likely digging it too. It’s now unlikely Betts will be around at all going forward, following his arrest for alleged drug distribution conspiracy May 29.

A criminal complaint unsealed after Betts’ arrest charges the longtime West Side drug dealer and violent enforcer for the Four Corner Hustlers street gang (4CH ) with conspiracy to distribute wholesale quantities of heroin, in the Chicago West Side Austin area.

Also charged were Angela Bell, 48, of Chicago, and Maurice Williams, 50, of Riverdale. Federal prosecutors noted that a criminal complaint was not evidence and the three should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

The 68-page complaint unsealed May 30 describes eight transactions — seven in the West Side Austin neighborhood — totaling about 136 grams of heroin (about 5 ounces). The drug deliveries occurred in the 5300 block of West Washington Boulevard.

Between late November into March, agents secretly recorded Betts, who is the sole 4CH gang member holding the rank of “prince,” conversing with a trusted high-ranking “five-star elite” member of the gang. Unbeknownst to Betts, his associate had turned confidential source for federal law enforcement and was under constant physical and electronic surveillance as he executed heroin deals with Betts.

Police were able to get both numerous audio and visual recordings of Betts arranging the sale and delivery of heroin.

The announcement of the arrests noted that the charges stem from a “multi-year investigation” by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force. Comprised of agents and officers from numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the two task forces work to “identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations.”

Federal law enforcement and Chicago police have targeted Betts and others in the Four Corner Hustlers gang for years.

Betts gained notoriety in the early 1990s when he founded the violent Body Snatchers faction of the Four Corner Hustlers street gang. In 1994 he was sentenced to 12 years in prison on armed violence and aggravated kidnapping convictions, serving eight years in the Tamms Supermax state prison in southern Illinois.

Following the arrest of longtime West Side gang leader Ray Longstreet in May 2004, Betts, who was scheduled to be paroled from prison that October, and high-ranking gang rival William “Burpee” Thomas were the obvious contenders for Longstreet’s lucrative drug empire.

Police at the time expressed the view that the Body Snatchers gang faction was responsible for many of the shootings and murders on the West Side during that period, including arsons in which innocent people were killed and injured.

Chicago police were so concerned about the potential for violence that in July 2004, they conducted a pre-emptive sweep of Thomas’ $10,000 a day heroin operation in North Austin following an investigation.

Thomas was arrested shortly thereafter when a search warrant at his residence turned up heroin and ammunition, something he was prohibited from possessing as a felon.

Law enforcement kept up the pressure on the gang, conducting a dozen or more drug and gang enforcement operations on the West Side between 2004 and 2010.

In May, 2008, Betts was arrested at his St. Charles apartment on felony marijuana charges, one of 55 individuals arrested following an 18-month investigation, Operation Capital Hill, that involved 22,000 intercepted calls and more than 100 undercover drug buys

Not just in Chicago but in Gary, Indiana, a short expressway drive from his Riverdale home.

“We in Gary [Indiana],” Betts bragged to the informant. “That (city is) … like Baghdad.”