The origins of the Gangster Disciples go back to the 1960s, and it became a major criminal force under the leadership of Larry Hoover in the 1970s. Hoover, who authorities say ran the gang even while in state prison for murder, built an operation that was as sophisticated as a legitimate corporation. The leadership established a strict code of conduct for members, reprimanding them for unacceptable behavior including violence.
Hoover transformed the Gangster Disciples into a multistate drug distribution network by the mid-1990s
, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration told the Tribune in 2004.
He shifted the gang away from traditional street market competition to impose a franchise system on drug sales.
"They had armies of lawyers and accountants. They had their own clothing line, music promotion company, political action committee. They had a structure that helped them insulate the leaders from the drugs and the guns
," said Ron Safer, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Hoover in the 1990s.
After Hoover and other gang leaders were taken down in a federal drug-trafficking, extortion and criminal enterprise case in 1997
ó Hoover is now in the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colo. ó a steady splintering of the Gangster Disciples began that has increased in the last decade, experts said.