Demolition begins on West Ridge building a day after raid by federal agents and Chicago police in response to ‘citizen complaints’

A search warrant was served at 6948 N. Western Ave. Tuesday evening and, within hours, an emergency demolition order was issued.

SHARE Demolition begins on West Ridge building a day after raid by federal agents and Chicago police in response to ‘citizen complaints’
Crews prepare to demolish a building Wednesday afternoon at 6948 N. Western Ave. in West Ridge on the North Side.

Crews prepare to demolish a building Wednesday afternoon at 6948 N. Western Ave. in West Ridge on the North Side.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Demolition began Wednesday on a building long a target of community complaints in West Ridge, just a day after city, state and federal officials raided it amid an investigation into fraud, illegal gambling and drug sales.

A search warrant was served at 6948 N. Western Ave. Tuesday evening and, within hours, an emergency demolition order was issued. Thecity’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protectionsaid an inspection “determined that the building was severely structurally compromised and an imminent hazard.”

Few details of the raid were released, but it involved the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the city’s Office of Inspector General and a “robbery burglary mission team” from the 24th police district.

According to a police report, a man arrested inside told authorities he was the “host” and that he “loads and unloads money from the gambling machines in the premisis [sic].” He faces possible gambling charges, a police source said, while a woman was arrested for drug possession unrelated to the search warrant.

The BACPalso issued 15 citations after the raid, including for failing to abide by current public health orders, operating without a business license and operating after a cease and desist order was issued, an agency spokesperson said.

The building had housed a barbecue restaurant several years ago, but in recent months it had come to be known as a social club and was a frequent target of citizen complaints, particularly after a nearby shooting earlier this year.

Chicago city records indicate a business license for that location was granted on Oct. 10 to JNG 1, Inc. NFP, a nonprofit that was registered with the Illinois secretary of state’s office less than five months earlier.The license is for retail sales of general merchandise and non-perishable items.

The nonprofit’s registered agent, Grace Fajardo, didn’t respond to requests for comment. The man who was arrested told investigators he gave money from the gambling machines to a woman described in the police report only as “Grace.”

Ald. Debra Silverstein, whose 50th Ward includes the building, said the raid was conducted “due to numerous citizen complaints of illegal activity over the past several months.” She did not elaborate and did not respond to several requests for comment.

Ald. Maria Hadden, whose 49th Ward is close to the building, said residents have raised concerns for months about suspected drug dealing at the unlicensed social club. She also noted that there have been shootings in the area. City records show a person was shot on the block on Jan. 29.

Hadden said she was told federal officials and the inspector general’s office got involved because they suspected methamphetamine was being sold. She said identity theft and prostitution may also have been involved.

“If what they suspected was happening there was happening, then I’m glad that Chicago police were able to partner with those federal partners and get it shut down,” she said.

Andy Boyle contributed to this report.

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