Federal Law Enforcement Seizes Large Amounts of Cocaine, Heroin and Fentanyl; More Than a Dozen Defendants Charged
CHICAGO — More than a dozen individuals are facing federal narcotics charges for their alleged roles in distributing cocaine, heroin and fentanyl on Chicago’s Northwest Side and western suburbs.
The federal investigation spanned more than two years and resulted in the seizures of approximately 52 kilograms of cocaine, 45 kilograms of heroin, more than 13 kilograms of fentanyl, and a pound of methamphetamines. Authorities used extensive undercover surveillance to uncover the alleged criminal activities. The probe was jointly led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and conducted under the umbrella of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Chicago Strike Force.
Thirteen defendants are charged with various narcotics offenses in federal court in Chicago. Five of the defendants were arrested Wednesday, while five others were arrested earlier this year. Three defendants are considered fugitives and are being sought by law enforcement.
The charges were announced by Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Dennis A. Wichern, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the DEA; and Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the FBI. Substantial assistance was provided by the Chicago Police Department; U.S. Marshals Service; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; Berwyn Police Department; Illinois State Police; DuPage County Metropolitan Enforcement Group; LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office; Downers Grove Police Department, and Peru, Ill., Police Department.
Authorities since 2015 have been investigating drug trafficking activities on the city’s Northwest Side and western suburbs, according to criminal complaints and affidavits filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The investigation uncovered numerous illegal drug transactions, including the distribution of three kilograms of cocaine on a street in Melrose Park, and the distribution of five kilograms of fentanyl at a gas station in Aurora.
The investigation revealed that AURELIO ABREGO, 45, of Chicago, and JOSE MIGUEL PEREZ, 54, of Chicago, worked together to obtain wholesale quantities of cocaine and heroin from others, and distributed the drugs to wholesale customers. The pair received the drugs from, among others, JAVIER MORENO, 49, of Chicago, and RICHARD ALVARADO, 28, of Chicago, for distribution to Abrego’s and Perez’s customers, the complaints state. FERNELLY LLANOS, 51, of Chicago, and PEDRO SAAVEDRA-FITZ, 28, of Chicago, served as brokers, supplying smaller distribution quantities of the narcotics to wholesale customers on credit – a practice known as “fronting” – and collected proceeds after the customers sold the narcotics, the charges state. The complaints identify one of the wholesale customers as FERNANDO GOMEZ, 30, of Schiller Park.
The complaint describes several drug transactions on the Northwest Side of Chicago. On July 17, 2015, Abrego and Perez distributed a kilogram of heroin to a customer of Saavedra-Fitz, the complaint states. At the time, a kilogram of heroin retailed in the Chicago area for approximately $49,000 to $54,000, the complaint states. On Sept. 29, 2015, Abrego allegedly distributed a kilogram of heroin to Llanos during a meeting in an alley in the Belmont Gardens neighborhood of Chicago. Authorities later seized the heroin after Llanos distributed it to another individual, according to the charges.
Abrego, Perez, Alvarado, Gomez and Llanos were arrested Wednesday on charges of drug distribution. U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason scheduled detention hearings for July 28, 2017, Aug. 1, 2017, and Aug. 2, 2017.
Four defendants were charged in May: RICARDO CASTANEDA, 31, of Peru, Ill.; SANTOS GODINA, 32, of West Brooklyn, Ill.; EUGENE ALEXANDER, 44, of Bensenville; and JENNIFER REPPIN, 33, of Peru, Ill. They are awaiting trial on drug distribution charges.
One defendant, CARLOS FUENTES, 40, of Riverside, was charged in an indictment with drug distribution. Fuentes, who remains in federal custody since his arrest in January, has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Saavedra-Fitz and Moreno are considered fugitives, as is ROLANDO ESTRADA, 41, of Elmwood Park. The three are facing drug distribution charges and are being sought by law enforcement.
The investigation was conducted under the umbrella of the OCDETF program, a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of OCDETF is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations.
The public is reminded that charges 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. If convicted, the Court must impose reasonable sentences under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
The government has been represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric Pruitt, Matthew Kutcher, John Mitchell and Patrick Otlewski.