Twenty-Four Defendants Facing Federal Drug Charges for Transporting Heroin and Cocaine to Chicago Aboard Amtrak Trains
CHICAGO — Federal charges unsealed today accused 24 individuals of various drug offenses for allegedly using Amtrak trains to transport heroin and cocaine to Chicago from California.
One of the defendants is an Amtrak employee who allegedly stole a package of cocaine upon arrival at Chicago’s Union Station.
Authorities uncovered the alleged drug trafficking through a multi-year investigation dubbed Operation Derailed. During the course of the probe and other closely related enforcement actions, authorities confiscated more than 60 kilograms of cocaine, more than 30 kilograms of heroin, a kilogram of fentanyl, five handguns, two rifles, and more than $1.8 million in cash. The charges seek forfeiture of approximately $9.3 million in illegal profits.
The indictments and complaints allege that wholesale quantities of heroin and cocaine were obtained from traffickers in Mexico and southern California, and transported from Los Angeles to Chicago aboard Amtrak’s commercial train line, Amtrak Express. Some of the drugs were concealed in automobile parts and pool filters, according to the charges. The drugs were picked up at Chicago’s Union Station and sold throughout the Chicago area, with some of the profits laundered back to southern California.
Several of the defendants were arrested this week. Arraignments and initial appearances in federal court in Chicago have not yet been scheduled.
The charges were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Dennis A. Wichern, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration; and James D. Robnett, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division. Substantial assistance was provided by the Amtrak Inspector General’s Office and the Amtrak Police Department.
The investigation was conducted under the umbrella of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, 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.
“Our Office is working harder than ever with the DEA and other federal, state and local law enforcement partners to stop the flow of dangerous narcotics and opioids into Chicago,” said U.S. Attorney Fardon. “We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute the drug traffickers responsible for bringing these drugs into our communities.”
"Too many families are forever scarred by heroin,” said Special Agent in Charge Wichern. “I'm proud of the work done by these agents, officers and prosecutors who worked tirelessly to achieve these results, and I’m confident that with our continued partnership we will have increasing success."
“When IRS Criminal Investigation gets involved, the drug dealer's profits get derailed," said Special Agent in Charge Robnett. “IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to providing the resources and working together with the DEA and the United States Attorney's Office to fight the war on drugs. IRS CI brings and will continue to bring our money laundering expertise to disrupt and dismantle the trafficking of drugs into our communities.”
In U.S.A. v. Roque et al, 15 CR 485, 12 defendants were indicted for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances: EDGAR ROQUE, 30, of Paramount, Calif.; RICHARD ROQUE, 32, of Paramount, Calif.; ANGELICA CERVANTES, 31, of Chicago; JUAN J. CERVANTES, 30, of Chicago; IVAN DIAZ, 26, of Downey, Calif.; PHILLIP DIAZ, 26, of Paramount, Calif.; MARTELL JACKSON, 33, of Chicago; ANTHONY KOON, 55, of Pueblo, Colo.; JOSÉ ANTONIO MIRELES, JR., 31, of Paramount, Calif.; JORGE LUIS OCHOA-CANELA, 36, of Paramount, Calif.; OMAR RAMIREZ, 24, of Compton, Calif.; and GERARDO SANCHEZ, 23, of Los Angeles, Calif. A 13th defendant, JESUS VALENCIA, 34, of Chicago, is charged in the indictment with attempting to possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance. The indictment seeks forfeiture of approximately $5 million in cash.
In U.S.A. v. Aragon Contreras et al, 15 CR 447, six defendants were indicted for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances, and conspiracy to commit money laundering: MANUEL ARAGON CONTRERAS, 32, of Paramount, Calif.; CESAR CARRILLO, 24, of South Gate, Calif.; EDUARDO FRANCO, 30, of Pico Rivera, Calif.; JOSE DAVILA, 33, of Pico Rivera, Calif.; RAFAEL COLLAZO, 22, of Paramount, Calif.; and BRIAN RIOS, 23, of Long Beach, Calif. The indictment seeks forfeiture of approximately $4.3 million in cash.
According to the charges, some of the defendants also transported the narcotics via FedEx from the Los Angeles area to hotels and other locations in Chicago. In the Amtrak shipments, some of the defendants placed GPS tracking devices inside parcels to allow them to monitor the narcotics as the packages travelled aboard trains to Chicago.
One of the packages containing cocaine was allegedly stolen by an Amtrak employee when it arrived in Chicago’s Union Station on July 31, 2014. The Amtrak employee, ROY J. GRIFFIN, 45, of Calumet City, and an acquaintance, DANIEL DOUGLAS, 43, of Blue Island, were indicted in U.S.A. v. Griffin et al, 15 CR 484, with theft of goods from a railroad car and possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance.
Three defendants were charged in individual criminal complaints. ROY W. BURRIS, 36, of Hawaiian Gardens, Calif., was charged with possession with the intent to distribute cocaine. Authorities seized more than $144,000 in cash and five kilograms of cocaine after Burris allegedly sold the drugs to a buyer in the Los Angeles area on March 30, 2016, according to the complaint. STEVEN MENDOZA, 24, of Lynwood, Calif., was charged with conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute. Mendoza travelled to Chicago’s Union Station on at least four occasions in 2015 to pick up packages containing narcotics, according to the complaint. JULIO ANDRADE, 35, of Paramount, Calif., was charged with conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute. Andrade picked up a package of narcotics at Chicago’s Union Station in July 2014, according to the complaint.
The public is reminded that indictments and complaints contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and 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 a reasonable sentence under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Tzur and Kavitha Babu are representing the government in Roque et al and Griffin et al, and Mr. Tzur is representing the government in the cases against Burris and Mendoza. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean J.B. Franzblau represents the government in Aragon Contreras et al, and the case against Andrade.