Twenty-Two Defendants Charged for Alleged Roles in Connected Drug Rings Extending from Mexico to Chicago and Across the U.S.
CHICAGO—22 defendants are facing federal narcotics charges here for their alleged roles in importing, supplying, and distributing kilogram quantities of heroin and cocaine through interconnected drug trafficking organizations that operated in the Chicago area, as well as in Mexico, California, Oregon, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The investigation resulted in the seizure of more than $3.9 million from a residence in suburban Park Ridge in April 2013, as well as dozens of kilograms of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana.
Beginning Monday night through yesterday, 14 defendants were arrested in the Chicago area, two in California, and one each in Iowa and Pennsylvania, following an investigation led by FBI and DEA agents and other law enforcement partners assigned to the Chicago Strike Force, a permanent task force of centrally housed federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies targeting the intersection of drug cartels’ large-scale smuggling of narcotics and local street gangs’ extensive distribution organizations. Three others were already in custody, and one is a fugitive believed to be in Mexico.
Approximately $500,000 and a kilogram of cocaine were seized yesterday during the arrest of one defendant in Philadelphia. In Chicago, a loaded .32 caliber revolver, thousands of dollars in cash, and quantities of cocaine and heroin were seized during the arrests. In total, agents seized approximately $5 million, 78 kilos of cocaine, and 20 kilos of heroin, and a large quantity of marijuana during the entire investigation.
The defendants were charged with conspiracy or possession with intent to distribute narcotics in three separate criminal complaints that were filed Monday in U.S. District Court and unsealed following the arrests. The defendants arrested here had their initial appearances yesterday and were scheduled to have detention hearings starting tomorrow and continuing through Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox in U.S. District Court.
“The Chicago Strike Force is a powerful collaboration of local, state, and federal law enforcement focused on the choke point between narcotics suppliers and street-level distributors,” said Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
“This investigation demonstrates the wisdom of the Strike Force and illustrates how dedicated teamwork can rise above jurisdictional and geographic borders, across state and international lines, to stem the flow of narcotics into our communities,” he said.
Mr. Fardon announced the charges with Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of investigation; Jack Riley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration; Gary Hartwig, Special Agent-in-Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and Garry F. McCarthy, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. The Addison, Berwyn, Oak Lawn, and Park Ridge police departments and the DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group also assisted in the investigation.
The Chicago Strike Force ― in addition to the DEA, FBI, HSI, and CPD ― also consists of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, and officers from various state and local law enforcement agencies, including the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department and the Illinois State Police.
“These Strike Force arrests demonstrate our collaborative and continuing endeavor to attack the persistent problem of drug trafficking in Chicago and the surrounding communities. I’d like to thank the United States Attorney’s Office and the DEA, our partners in this investigation, as well as the Chicago Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations, whose contributions were vital to the success of yesterday’s operation,” Mr. Holley said.
“This investigation is an example of the extraordinary work being done by the men and women at the Chicago Strike Force. Guns and drugs continue to be the underlying source of much of our city’s violence and yesterday’s arrests effectively dismantled a significant international criminal organization and its distribution network, responsible for trafficking narcotics on the streets of Chicago,” Mr. Riley said. “I applaud the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as well as the other members of the Strike Force, for the exceptional job they did investigating these organizations.”
One of the three complaints charges VICTOR MATA MADRIGAL, 37, of Lombard, and eight members or associates of his alleged drug trafficking organization. Mata Madrigal allegedly imported wholesale amounts of cocaine and marijuana from Mexico into Chicago and distributed those narcotics to various wholesale customers.
On April 16, 2013, Strike Force agents seized $3,927,359 in alleged drug proceeds belonging to the Mata Madrigal organization from a residence in the 700 block of North Lincoln Avenue in Park Ridge. The cash was found inside numerous duffel bags, roller bags, and backpacks. Also seized were multiple cell phones, money counters, and packaging materials used to secure the cash. Mata Madrigal was arrested the same day and the complaint alleges that he continued to direct the drug operation while he was in custody.
The complaint charges that between April 2012 and May 2014 Mata Madrigal conspired with co-defendants JORGE SANCHEZ, of Philadelphia; JORGE MICHEL-MONROY, 45, of Philadelphia; SERGIO ZEPEDA, 30, of Berwyn; RAMON CONTRERAS, 23, of Chicago; ANTONIO MEIJA RODRIGUEZ, believed to be in Mexico; BALMORE URBANO, 31, of Bensenville; and STEPHANIE ARREDONDO, 22, of Franklin Park, to possess and distribute cocaine. The complaint also charges RICARDO HERNANDEZ, 30, of Chicago, and Urbano with possession with intent to distribute cocaine. If convicted, these nine defendants face a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years and a $5 million fine.
Another complaint charges DANIEL CONTRERAS, 36, of Bellwood, with working with multiple individuals to obtain and sell wholesale quantities of cocaine. Daniel Contreras and codefendants ROBERTO CORTEZ, 39, of Rialto, Calif., and MICHAEL AGUIRRE, 26, of Maywood, allegedly purchased cocaine from the Mata Madrigal organization. Daniel Contreras also allegedly worked separately with HECTOR MURILLO, 29, of Cicero, and ADAN BACA, 36, of Schaumburg, to sell distribution-sized quantities of cocaine. Co-defendants RAFAEL RUIZ, 36, of Bellwood; ARMANDO GARCIA, 38, of Bellwood; and JOSEPH DE LA VEGA, 52, of Chicago, were allegedly wholesale cocaine customers of Daniel Contreras. EITEL MENDOZA, 37, of Culver, Ore., allegedly worked with Cortez to transport kilos of cocaine from Oregon to Illinois. If convicted, eight of these defendants face a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years and a $5 million fine, while De La Vega alone faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
The third complaint charges JUAN MOYANO, 33, of Chicago, with purchasing narcotics from the Mata Madrigal organization and managing his own drug trafficking organization in Chicago that distributed heroin and cocaine, as well as possessed and transferred firearms. Moyano allegedly conspired with co-defendants NIKKOLAS CASILLO, 28, of Chicago, and JOSE VASQUEZ, 30, of Chicago, to distribute narcotics to their customers. Co-defendant JIM BAARTZ, 41, of Crystal Lake, was an alleged heroin customer of Moyano. If convicted, Moyano, Casillo, and Vasquez face a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years and a $5 million fine, while Baartz alone faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
The government is being represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Patrick Otlewski and Nicole Kim.
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.