Two brothers driving a flatbed tow truck carrying a blue Honda Prelude exited the Kennedy Expressway at Armitage Avenue where they failed to stop at a red light about 7:20 p.m. on March 5 of this year. Chicago police officers stopped the tow truck near the intersection of Armitage and Wolcott avenues and identified the driver and his passenger. Noting that the Honda was registered to another individual, the officers asked if the vehicle was stolen and the driver replied that to his knowledge, it was not. The officers subsequently seized the Honda and allowed the two men to depart in the tow truck.
Within an hour the driver of the tow truck was on the phone with a third man, telling him repeatedly that the Honda had “broken down.” After hearing some disbelief, the driver told the third man, “No, I’m telling you that the ...the car was taken by the clowns, man.”
The seizure of the Honda was not at all as coincidental as it might have seemed to the three men, however. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, assisted by the Chicago Police Department and other agencies, had been surveilling the men while they loaded the Honda onto the flatbed near 71st and Sacramento Avenue about 6:40 p.m. that evening based on listening to their intercepted telephone conversations. Later that night, after a police canine positively indicated the likely presence of drugs at the rear of the Honda, DEA agents obtained a federal warrant to search the car and found two boxes containing a total of approximately 20 kilograms of heroin in 20 packages.
The tow truck driver, Mario Coria, and his brother, Omar Coria, and the man they spoke to on the phone, Alberto Guadarrama, were among a total of 11 defendants, 10 who were arrested yesterday on federal drug-trafficking charges. The charges, contained in six separate criminal complaints, stem from an investigation led by the DEA, together with task force officers from the Chicago, Berwyn, Brookfield, Lansing, and Summit police departments, as well as the Elgin Police Department, which assisted in yesterday’s arrests. DEA offices in Madison, Wis., Milwaukee, Houston, Dallas, and McAllen, Texas, and Indianapolis also assisted in the investigation, which was conducted under the umbrella of the U.S. Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).
All 11 defendants were charged with various drug distribution offenses in the complaints that were filed in U.S. District Court and unsealed following the arrests. The 10 defendants arrested yesterday appeared before Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez in U.S. District Court and remain in federal custody pending detention hearings scheduled on Monday. One defendant is a fugitive.
The arrests and charges were announced by Jack Riley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the DEA Chicago Field Division and Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
“This operation strikes down a major Mexican criminal organization that routinely distributed high quality heroin throughout the Midwest,” Mr. Riley said. “The arrests by DEA and its state and local law enforcement partners effectively dismantled a significant trafficking organization that was responsible for the distribution of multi-kilogram quantities of heroin on the streets of Chicago.”
Guardarrama, 29, of Bartlett; Mario Coria, 46, and Omar Coria, 35, both of Chicago, were charged with conspiracy to distribute multi-kilogram quantities of heroin and cocaine. According to the affidavit in this case and others, DEA agents began receiving information in 2010 from a confidential source (CS-1) regarding the drug trafficking and money laundering activities of a Mexican-based drug trafficking organization. According to CS-1, since at least 2010, a high-ranking member of the organization (referred to as “the Mexican SOS,” for source of supply) oversaw the distribution of large quantities of cocaine and heroin and the collection of large amounts of drug money in multiple locations in the United States, including Chicago, Atlanta, and elsewhere. CS-1 told agents that in 2011 the Mexican SOS contacted CS-1 and asked CS-1 to be responsible for the organization’s operation in the Chicago area. CS-1 agreed and worked for the Mexican-based organization in Chicago while under the supervision of DEA during December 2011 and January 2012. According to CS-1 and Mexican media sources, the Mexican SOS was killed in Mexico in approximately July of this year.
The charges allege that Guadarrama and Mario Coria sold two kilograms of cocaine to CS-1 in January, and all three defendants were involved in arranging for the Coria brothers in March to pick up the 20 kilograms of heroin, sent from Mexico.
Other defendants charged separately as a result of this investigation are as follows:
Juan Vigil, 65, of Houston, charged with distributing 1.5 kilograms of heroin,
supplied by the Mexican-based organization, to CS-1 at a hotel near Midway Airport
in Chicago on Jan. 22 of this year.
Domingo Macedo Jr., 42, of Chicago, charged with possession with intent to
distribute a kilo of cocaine on Jan. 7, 2012.
Miguel Beltran, 36, of Chicago, charged with possession with intent to
distribute a kilo of cocaine on Dec. 23, 2011.
Lorenzo Trujillo, 22, of Evanston, charged with possession with intent to
distribute a kilo of cocaine on Dec. 22, 2011.
Victor Manuel Contreras, 43, of Elgin; Mario Ortiz, 34, of Elgin;
Orlando Penaloza, 28, of Harvard, Ill.; and Miguel Ortuno-Gomez,
30, of Madison, Wis., were charged in a four-count complaint. The charges allege
that Contreras delivered three kilos of cocaine to Ortiz on June 5 of this year, and
later the same day, Ortiz delivered the same three kilos of cocaine to Penaloza. Later
still on June 5, Contreras delivered two additional kilos of cocaine to Ortiz, and Ortiz
delivered that cocaine to Ortuno-Gomez. Ortuno-Gomez is the only defendant who
was not arrested yesterday and is a fugitive.
During the course of the investigation, the DEA seized approximately 21.5 kilograms of heroin and five kilograms of cocaine. Defendants Contreras, Mario and Omar Coria, Guadarrama, Ortiz, and Vigil face a mandatory minimum of 10 years to a maximum of life in prison and a $10 million fine, while defendants Beltran, Macedo, Ortuno-Gomez, Penaloza, and Trujillo face a mandatory minimum of five years to a maximum of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is being represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Jessica Romero, Shoba Pillay, and Stephen Lee.
The public is reminded that complaints contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.