On his social media sites, Thaddeus “T.J.” Jimenez called himself Batman and Bruce Wane — misspelling the name of the comic hero’s alter ego, millionaire Bruce Wayne.
But unlike Bruce Wayne, Jimenez used his fortune for evil.
In 2012, he won an astonishing $25 million in a wrongful-conviction lawsuit against the city of Chicago. Half went to his lawyers. And he showered millions of what was left on his street gang, the Simon City Royals.
What really caught the attention of the police, though, was that he started expanding his gang beyond its stronghold in Albany Park and other neighborhoods on the Northwest Side, where the members were mostly white and Hispanic. He paid black gang members who lived miles away on the West Side to switch sides and join his gang, according to law enforcement sources.
Jimenez’s aim wasn’t to elbow his way into the lucrative drug trade on the West Side, they say, but to act like a kingpin and wage war on rival gangs for the fun of it.
The pace of violence picked up not long after Jimenez created his West Side franchise in 2014, according to a Chicago Sun-Times investigation that’s found that at least 19 people were shot, four of them killed, in the months-long battle that broke out as a result of Jimenez creating the No Love Money Gang — what his crew of West Siders called themselves.
“That’s when things started going haywire,” says Derrick House, an outreach worker for the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago on the West Side. “You have all of these people dead. If he wouldn’t have come down here, it probably would have been different.”
One cop says, “T.J. blew up the West Side.”
Robert Tracy, who was chief crime strategist for the Chicago Police Department at the time, agrees.
“He did have a heavy role in escalating the violence in that area,” says Tracy, now police chief in Wilmington, Delaware. “It was incredible. In Chicago, they were supposed to have a reputation for being loyal to their gangs. Obviously, money changed their minds.”
The chaos that Jimenez, now 38, brought to the West Side lasted nearly until he got locked up in the summer of 2015, according to police and community activists.
“As we started picking people off, though, he did quiet down a lot,” Tracy says.
Jimenez’s early childhood was spent on the Northwest Side — the Royals’ base for decades. After he got out of prison in 2009, he took over the gang, which, over the next few years, terrorized the Northwest Side, shooting and threatening people, authorities say.
Last month, Jimenez was sentenced to more than nine years in federal prison for possessing a handgun the police said he used to shoot a man in the legs in August 2015 in Irving Park.
A fellow gang member, riding with Jimenez, recorded the shooting on his cellphone. It’s a jarring video, showing the pair listening to “Ave Maria” blasting out of the speakers of Jimenez’s $90,000 Mercedes-Benz convertible and threatening bystanders on their way to the shooting. A police scanner in the car crackles in the background.
After being convicted of illegal gun possession in U.S. District Court, Jimenez was moved from a federal lockup to the Cook County Jail to face state charges for the shooting itself.
Awaiting trial, he recently was sent from there to the Kendall County Jail because “his presence in the jail causes tension,” says Cara Smith, policy director for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
Jimenez has spent much of his life behind bars, which he called “my house” and “my world” in a letter he wrote in jail in 2015.
His uncles were Simon City Royals, and he views the gang as his “family.” In the 1960s and ’70s, the Royals were known for their white supremacist ideology. In the 1980s, the gang formed an alliance with the Gangster Disciples, one of Chicago’s biggest black gangs, to protect Simon City Royals members in prison.
But the Royals haven’t changed their racist ways, court records show. In early 2014, a black couple walking from their car to their home with their 2-year-old child and their groceries were accosted by members of Jimenez’s crew on the Northwest Side. According to a police report, they flashed a gun, called the couple monkeys and said, “Get the f— out of our hood, we will f—— kill you!” One of them, Luis Candelaria, was convicted of a hate crime and sent to prison.
Despite such racist activity, Jimenez, whose mother is Polish-American and dead father was Hispanic, decided to extend the Royals’ reach by recruiting young black men. Most of them hailed from the 700 block of North Trumbull and surrounding blocks on the West Side. Some even tattooed Royals logos on their faces and necks to prove their allegiance to Jimenez, who handed them thousands of dollars in cash, let them drive his stable of luxury cars and threw lavish parties for them.
The expansion touched off an outbreak of violence in West Humboldt Park that lasted from mid-2014 through much of 2015 and illustrated what one cop calls “the delicate ecosystem of gangs in the area.” Gang factions in the neighborhood generally coexisted, selling drugs on the blocks they controlled. But Jimenez’s No Love Money Gang shattered the relative calm there, authorities say.
Jimenez and his lawyer, Steven Greenberg, declined requests for comment.
In a sentencing memo in Jimenez’s federal gun case, Greenberg said his client’s problems date to when he was just 13 and was charged in the fatal 1993 shooting of 19-year-old Eric Morro on the Northwest Side. He was convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
“He was terrorized on a daily basis, at times assaulted by both prisoners and guards,” Greenberg said in court papers.
A witness in the case later recanted and implicated another man, Juan Carlos Torres. Jimenez’s conviction was overturned, and he was freed in 2009 after serving 16 years in prison. Torres was later tried and acquitted when the judge said he didn’t trust any of the witnesses.
After he got out, Jimenez had a son and a daughter with his girlfriend. He doted on his family, according to his mother, Victoria Jimenez.
In 2012, a jury awarded him $25 million — one of the biggest judgments in a wrongful-conviction lawsuit against the city.
Despite all of that, Jimenez started getting into trouble. He went to prison at the end of 2012 for a drug-possession conviction. When he was released, he acted differently, his mother says.
“Now, he wanted to be the Al Capone of Chicago,” she says. “Family didn’t matter to him anymore.”
Victoria Jimenez says she was stung by comments his girlfriend made in March after his sentencing in his federal gun case. The girlfriend told reporters his family didn’t care about him and was just concerned with getting his money. “That’s not true,” his mother says.
Victoria Jimenez says she visited her son while he was first in prison and attended hearings in his other cases. She wasn’t able to go to his federal sentencing last month because she was in the hospital with pneumonia, she says, but says, “I am still here for him,” even though she says he won’t put her on his jail visitation list.
She says she was heartbroken by the video of her son shooting a man in the legs for no apparent reason in 2015.
“He’s got to pay for what he did,” she says. “You don’t go around playing God.”
“His settlement was squandered on status-enhancing material goods and on reviving the Simon City Royals, the all-but-defunct gang of his childhood, where Thaddeus provided financial assistance to others on the street who joined him,” Greenberg wrote.
“He reimagined it on a clinically grandiose scale — a kind of Camelot of loyal comrades-in-arms — with himself as its head, not a broken, shaken man unable to function in the real world, but in this more familiar realm, a leader, a king, in control, powerful, invulnerable.”
Jimenez’s idea to expand his gang kingdom to the West Side grew out of a friendship forged in the Cook County Jail after he was charged with drug possession in 2012, according to a law enforcement source.
The source says a drug dealer he met in jail was part of the Traveling Vice Lords from the 700 block of North Trumbull, and that led Jimenez to Dantrell Williams, another Traveling Vice Lord from that area. Williams, now 21, got an “R” tattooed on his neck and became one of the original leaders of Jimenez’s No Love Money Gang, the source says.
But Jimenez wasn’t interested in selling heroin on the West Side like the Traveling Vice Lords or their rivals, the Conservative Vice Lords, according to authorities — only in taking on rival gangs.
The police knew of the gang war, says Tracy. “We were tracking him,” he says of Jimenez. “But this guy had counter-surveillance. He knew we were watching him.”
The first time Jimenez was documented hanging out with his West Side crew was on May 22, 2014, in the 4100 block of West Chicago. A police report shows Jimenez was stopped by officers for a traffic violation in his green Humvee, riding with No Love Money Gang members. Jimenez also allowed those in the gang to drive the Hummer, nicknamed the “Tank,” according to sources who say reports of shots fired were often linked to a vehicle matching its description.
Police think the No Love Money Gang first targeted the Conservative Vice Lords on July 3, 2014. Witnesses saw a green Hummer right before a shooting in the 600 block of North Ridgeway, sources say. Martin Satterfield, a former Marshall High School basketball player, was left partially paralyzed. The 24-year-old now uses a wheelchair.
No one has been charged in that crime. Satterfield, whose family says he wasn’t a gang member, wouldn’t cooperate with investigators, according to a police report.
Before Satterfield was shot, the neighborhood was relatively quiet, police records show. Afterward, a back-and-forth gun battle raged in the approximately 16-block area. By the end of October 2014, the Traveling Vice Lords were fed up with those members who defected to the No Love Money Gang, according to one knowledgeable source who says the TVLs thought Jimenez’s upstart crew was hurting their narcotics business by drawing cops to the neighborhood with violence.
In response, sources say, the TVLs killed Owen “Oskeeno” Spears, a No Love Money Gang member, on Oct. 27, 2014, in the 700 block of North Trumbull, though no one’s been charged. Spears, a 22-year-old rapper, was shot to warn the No Love Money Gang to get out of the neighborhood, sources say.
“Rest in peace Oskeeno,” Jimenez wrote in the 2015 jailhouse letter. “You’re in my heart forever.”
Some core members of the No Love Money Gang got the hint and left. Others stayed. Many of them went to jail, including three of Jimenez’s top lieutenants.
Williams was arrested Jan. 31, 2015, for having an illegal 9mm handgun while riding in an SUV pulled over for a traffic violation.
“Everybody trying to kill me because I’m a Royal,” officers said Williams told them. “I gotta protect myself.”
The same gun was used to shoot a Four Corner Hustlers member in the leg earlier that month on the West Side, authorities say.
On March 22, 2015, while free on bail, Williams was driving a Chrysler 300 on the West Side with No Love Money Gang members when he got pulled over, after a chase, for running a stop sign. Officers said a loaded AK-47-style rifle was in the car. Again, Cook County prosecutors charged Williams with illegal gun possession, and he was freed on $100,000 bail.
On Aug. 13, 2015, Williams was shot in the forearm but wouldn’t cooperate with the police.
Weeks later, federal authorities charged Williams with illegal possession of the 9mm handgun and the rifle. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in federal prison. In a sentencing memo, federal prosecutors noted that Cook County judges had released Williams on bail for gun possession — twice.
“Despite having been arrested in possession of an even more deadly weapon than his already pending charge, defendant was once again released on bond,” prosecutors wrote.
They said Williams’ rap sheet included more than a dozen arrests for drug possession and threatening people with guns, that he was given repeated chances “to get his life back on track but has instead chosen again and again to ally himself with violent street gangs — first, the Traveling Vice Lords and, most recently, the Simon City Royals, led by Thaddeus Jimenez.”
On April 12, 2015, another Royals member, Tyrell Thomas, walked into a convenience store near Chicago and Homan avenues with a submachine gun tethered to his neck by a shoestring. It was a gun “fit for a Hollywood action film,” federal prosecutors later wrote.
Thomas’ two accomplices also were members of the Royals, after flipping from the Traveling Vice Lords, according to police, who say the trio stole about $370 from rival gang members. A security camera showed them entering and exiting the store.
Thomas, now 30, pleaded guilty to possession of a MasterPiece Arms .45-caliber submachine gun. He’s serving a 108-month federal prison term. No one else was charged.
Divonte Hall, identified as another member of the Royals, got locked up for a triple shooting in 2016. On March 7, 2016, he and an accomplice shot two men and a woman near 13th and Lawndale, police said. Witnesses said one of the gunmen yelled, “I told you I ain’t playing.” Hall, now 20, is in Cook County Jail awaiting trial for aggravated battery with a firearm.
After Jimenez and his closest No Love Money Gang/Simon City Royals members got locked up, the violence began to ebb in the West Side neighborhood, police records show.
House, the outreach worker, says far fewer people have been shot near Homan and Chicago since Jimenez was busted in August 2015.
“Since he’s gone, it’s quieted down,” says House, a former CeaseFire outreach worker on the West Side. “I know. I am still through the area every day.”
In his jailhouse letter, Jimenez railed at fellow gang members he thought turned their backs on him.
House says it’s the other way around.
“He used them up and threw them out,” he says.