City inspector says meth lab found in West Ridge building raided by feds, quickly demolished

“METH LAB BUSTED” was written into a Buildings Department report obtained by the Sun-Times, although federal officials would not confirm what exactly took place inside the former barbecue shop.

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Crews prepare to demolish a building at 6948 N. Western Ave. in West Ridge on the North Side, Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 9, 2022. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A city inspector’s report indicates that a meth lab was discovered inside a West Ridge building that doubled as a gambling den and was demolished last month after being raided by federal agents and Chicago police officers.

Scant details have been released since the authorities served a search warrant on Feb. 8 at 6948 N. Western Ave., the former home of a barbecue supplies store.

Ald. Maria Hadden, whose 49th Ward is close to the building, previously told the Sun-Times that federal officials got involved because they suspected methamphetamine was being sold there. Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request from the city’s Buildings Department appear to signal that the drug was actually being manufactured there.

An inspector’s comments in a Feb. 9 report are premised with an ominous header: “OPEN METH LAB BUSTED.”

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The inspector then lays out structural issues at the building and warns that the conditions were “dangerous and hazardous to first responders.”

An administrative order signed the same day by Jorge Herrera, the city’s chief demolition inspector, notes the building was damaged during unspecified construction and collapsed due to being structurally unsound. The estimated cost of the demolition for the rest of the structure was nearly $43,000, the documents show.

The documents make no further mention of methamphetamine, and a spokesperson for the Buildings Department declined to say whether a meth lab was found.

“Inspection reports are intended to record the state of the structural, mechanical, and fire protection components and systems; proper occupancy use; or zoning use of a building or structure,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Extraneous comments regarding potential law enforcement activity are not meant as any official observation or determination by [the department].”

The search was conducted in response to allegations of drug sales, gambling and “other criminal activities,” the spokesperson said. A previous statement by the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection also pointed to suspected fraud.

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, the federal agencies that apparently led the raid, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Chicago police officials declined comment, referring to the previous BACP statement.

It’s unclear if anyone was taken into federal custody. But amid the raid, a 36-year-old woman was arrested by Chicago police and charged with possessing meth and drug paraphernalia, according to Cook County court records. The charges were dropped the following day.

Allen Isip, 34, was also taken into police custody and charged with keeping a gambling place, records show. He allegedly told authorities he was the “host” at the illegal business and that he gave money from gambling machines to a woman described only as “Grace.”

Neither arrestee responded to requests for comment.

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Authorities allegedly found gambling machines during a raid of 6948 N. Western Ave. on Feb. 8, 2022.

Grace Fajardo is the registered agent of the nonprofit that was granted a retail business license in October at that location, according to city and state records. Fajardo, who hasn’t been charged with wrongdoing, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The building’s owner, Nasrullah Khan, said the city tore the structure down without his family’s knowledge, although he acknowledged they were aware of certain structural issues and had previously considered demolishing it. Khan added that Fajardo signed a lease to rent the building, but he had no knowledge of any drug activity there.

Local Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) said she had only been informed that suspected drug-dealing was happening at the building. She declined further comment because the investigation remains open but acknowledged the business had become a problem.

Silverstein previously said on Facebook that her office had also received complaints of “gambling and prostitution” and that two shootings were linked to that location.

City photos show squalid conditions

Photographs from the Buildings Department offer a glimpse inside, showing gambling machines, pill bottles, heaps of trash bags, squalid conditions and exposed wiring.

There is, however, no clear evidence of meth production in the photographs.

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City inspectors found squalid, dangerous conditions at a building in West Ridge that was demolished following a raid by local and federal authorities on Feb. 8, 2022.

The site was home to Dollar Plus and later BBQ Supply Co., but that closed in 2018. In recent months the site had come to be known as a social club and was a frequent target of citizen complaints, particularly after a shooting earlier this year.

A police report detailing the Jan. 29 incident noted that a 24-year-old man reported he was shot after showing up to retrieve a stolen wallet from the building, which he described as a “pool hall.”

After demanding the wallet back, the victim said he and five other people ended up in the alley. That’s when one of them struck him in the head after he refused to “provide something else,” according to the report. The victim then said he was ready to “fight them” for the wallet before a second person shot him in the back.

The victim couldn’t identify his attackers, saying only that one person in the group went by the alias “GREEN ICE.”

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