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Grand Jury Indicts Two Chicago Men on Drug Charges Following I-57 Traffic Stop Last Month

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2011

Springfield, Ill. – A federal grand jury today returned an indictment charging two Chicago men who were previously charged on Feb. 14, by criminal complaint, with drug offenses. The four-count indictment charges Pedro Luis Lazaro-Tapia, 29, and Hector Avitia, 26, both of Chicago, with one count each of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine; conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine; and one count each of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Illinois State Police stopped a Jeep Cherokee on Feb 11, 2011, on northbound I-57, in Douglas County, for following too closely in traffic. After making the traffic stop, the trooper observed several indicators of criminal activity and the vehicle was towed after the officer determined that neither man held a valid driver’s license. A subsequent search of the vehicle, pursuant to a Champaign County search warrant, revealed 12 bundles of cocaine and one bundle of methamphetamine hidden in the vehicle’s front and rear differentials.

On Feb. 18, U.S. Magistrate Judge David G. Bernthal ordered that both defendants remain detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

If convicted, the statutory penalty for the offenses of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine is a minimum of 10 years in prison to life in prison. The statutory penalty for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine involving more than 500 grams and possession with intent to distribute cocaine is a minimum five years in prison and up to 40 years in prison.

The charges are the result of an investigation by the Illinois State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration with the Champaign County State’s Attorney’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly M. Peirson.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

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