16 charged in Twin Cities drug bust

By Marc Strauss

April 6, 2011 Updated Apr 6, 2011 at 6:21 PM CDT

A 7-month long investigation by federal, state and local law enforcement has resulted in shutting down a large Chicago to Bloomington-Normal drug trafficking operation.

On Tuesday authorities announced that 16 people have been charged with distributing crack-cocaine and marijuana after a collaborative effort dubbed "Operation Prairie Eagle" that included the FBI.

Fifteen of those charged are Bloomington-Normal residents, the other is Eric Michael Cheek of Cicero, Illinois, the leader of the drug ring.

Cheek is charged with intent to distribute 280 grams of cocaine and more than 100 kilograms of marijuana.

Normal Police Chief Kent Crutcher called it the biggest drug bust he's ever been involved with.

"I want to personally thank the FBI for partnering with us in this investigation and for allowing our drug unit to gain experience," said Crutcher. "You can go to class all day, but to actually be involved in a case of this magnitude, you may never see (one this big again) in a career."

Authorities currently have 14 of the 16 people charged in custody.