The Federal Bureau of Investigation and police from other local agencies arrested 23 people last week, the result of a wide-ranging local, state and federal effort to crack down on organized street gangs in Chicago.

And three men, including one from Riverside, remain at-large and are the subject of a nationwide manhunt. The men are accused of drug- and weapons-related crimes, according to a press release issued by the FBI’s Chicago office on July 22. Those men, along with the 23 arrested by police on July 20 and 21, have been charged in either federal or Cook County Circuit Court.

Carlos Vigneri, 43, of 340 E. Burlington St., is charged with conspiring with Chicago resident Santana Cruz, 33, to possess and distribute nearly 70 grams of crack cocaine through someone from whom they allegedly were attempting to extort $22,000.

What Vigneri and Cruz didn’t know, however, was that their alleged extortion target was cooperating with the FBI.

According to the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District court on July 20, the informant came to Chicago police in January 2009, saying Vigneri and Cruz were trying to extort money from him. They blamed him for botching a drug deal with a street gang member.

The informant told authorities he was supposed to sell one kilogram of cocaine to a member of the Conservative Vice Lords street gang, but he was robbed of the drugs. Cruz reportedly demanded $22,000 to compensate him for the stolen drugs and took the informant’s van as collateral.

The informant was then reportedly forced to make other drug deals for Cruz and Vigneri to help pay off his debt to them and get his van back. In March 2009, the informant reportedly paid Vigneri $3,500 for 69.3 grams of crack cocaine, which was turned over to the FBI.

Vigneri has lived in Riverside for several years, it appears. In 2001, police made contact with him in connection with a domestic dispute. In 2002, they were back at the East Burlington Street residence, in an apartment building, responding to a landlord/tenant dispute.

Neither incident resulted in any charges against Vigneri, said Police Chief Thomas Weitzel.

Anyone with information pertaining to the whereabouts of Vigneri or Cruz is asked to call the FBI at 312-421-6700.

-Bob Uphues