Two Brothers from Des Plaines Among 24 Defendants Charged with Trafficking Large Quantities of Cocaine and Heroin
CHICAGO—Two dozen defendants are facing federal drug charges after a two-and-a-half-year investigation uncovered their roles in trafficking wholesale amounts of cocaine and heroin and distributing it in the Chicago area and Wisconsin.
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration assigned to the Chicago Strike Force, seized 77 kilograms of cocaine and 138 grams of heroin during the course of the investigation, which was dubbed “Operation Alley Cat.” Authorities exposed the trafficking rings through the use of wiretapped cellular phones and extensive surveillance.
Several of the defendants were arrested Wednesday morning. Two kilograms of cocaine, a half kilogram of heroin and two guns were seized during the arrests.
The defendants were charged in two separate criminal complaints filed Monday in U.S. District Court and unsealed following the arrests. They will begin making initial court appearances this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney I. Schenkier in Chicago.
According to affidavits filed in support of the arrests, the investigation revealed that two separate networks of drug traffickers were operating in the Chicago area and Wisconsin.
THE CRUZ ORGANIZATION
The affidavits allege that LUIS ANTONIO CRUZ, 48, of Des Plaines, and JULIO SANTIAGO, 41, of Chicago, worked with narcotics brokers who had obtained wholesale quantities of cocaine and heroin from suppliers. The pair then distributed smaller quantities of the narcotics to customers on consignment, a practice known as “fronting,” and collected proceeds from the customers following the sales, according to the affidavits. Once the drugs were sold, Cruz and Santiago made arrangements to pay the suppliers and the brokers, the affidavits state.
Cruz and Santiago used various city and suburban locations to store, process and package the cocaine and heroin, according to the affidavits. These locations included two residences in Des Plaines, one of which belonged to Cruz and the other to a co-defendant, ANTONIO GRIMALDO, 56; and the Chicago homes of Santiago and a co-defendant, CRISTINO MERCED, 51, both of which were located in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood on the Northwest Side, the affidavits state.
The charges allege that Cruz’s brother, CARLOS ALBERTO CRUZ-CARRERA, 42, helped Cruz with pickups and deliveries of heroin and by counting the proceeds from the sales. Cruz-Carrera is a resident of Puerto Rico but lived with his brother in Des Plaines during his involvement in the scheme, authorities said.
The affidavits describe a wide-ranging network of alleged suppliers, brokers and sellers within the Cruz Organization.
JOEL CHAVEZ, 53, and EMMANUEL FERNANDEZ, 34, obtained wholesale quantities of cocaine from a supplier and delivered it to Cruz on credit, the charges allege. After Cruz and Santiago diluted, re-packaged and re-sold the cocaine to others, Cruz delivered proceeds from the sales to Chavez and Fernandez, both of whom reside in Chicago, according to the affidavits.
JOSE NUNEZ, 31, of Chicago, obtained cocaine and heroin from suppliers and delivered it to Cruz and Santiago on credit, the charges allege. Cruz regularly arranged for partial payments and re-payments to Nunez and to Nunez’s suppliers after Cruz and Santiago had re-sold the drugs to others, according to the affidavits.
The affidavits state that Nunez later introduced to Cruz an alleged supplier, JOSE RAMOS-GARNICA, 23, of Chicago. The introduction allowed Cruz to place orders for cocaine and heroin directly with Ramos-Garnica, the affidavits state. On April 17, 2014, authorities seized a half kilogram of cocaine from Ramos-Garnica, according to the affidavits.
DELVI COMPRES, 33, of Cicero, supplied Santiago with kilogram quantities of cocaine, which Santiago processed and re-sold to others before paying Compres, according to the affidavits.
ARCILIO LAUREANO-NAVARRO, 30, of Chicago, purchased heroin from Cruz and then re-sold it in Wisconsin, according to the affidavits. After agents seized heroin from Laureano-Navarro in 2013, Cruz began selling it directly to a Wisconsin resident, DAVID LOZADO-OTERO, 35, of Milwaukee, the affidavits state. On some occasions Cruz would deliver the heroin to Lozado-Otero in Wisconsin, and other times Lozado-Otero would pick it up from Cruz in the Chicago area, according to the affidavits.
The affidavits state that several other narcotics distributors obtained drugs from Cruz’s organization, including GILBERTO DANIELS, 31, of Chicago; ERIC COBARRUBIA, 39, of Chicago; FRANCISCO QUINTANA, 46, of Chicago; JUAN VAZQUEZ-DELGADO, 35, of Chicago; and SANTIAGO DIAZ-GALLEGOS, 41, of Chicago.
Cruz, Santiago, Cruz-Carrera, Chavez, Fernandez, Ramos-Garnica, Compres, Cobarrubia, Grimaldo, Nunez, Merced, Daniels, Laureano-Navarro and Lozado-Otero were charged with conspiring with each other to knowingly and intentionally possess with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin. If convicted, they each face a maximum of life in prison and a $10 million fine.
Quintana, Vazquez-Delgado and Diaz-Gallegos were each charged with knowingly and intentionally possessing a controlled substance with the intent to distribute. If convicted, Quintana faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine; Vazquez-Delgado faces a maximum of 40 years in prison and a $1 million fine; and Diaz-Gallegos faces a maximum of life in prison and a $10 million fine.
The Acosta Network
The affidavits state that ALFREDO ACOSTA, 52, also known as “Mecha” and “Jose Esteban Resendiz Ayvar”, conspired with a Mexican supplier and others to distribute cocaine and heroin in the early part of 2014. Acosta stashed the drugs in a home he referred to as “the office,” located in the 4000 block of West Irving Park Road in Chicago, the affidavits state. Acosta used the stash house to accept deliveries of narcotics from his supplier’s couriers, and to store drugs and cash, according to the affidavits.
In January 2014, Acosta arranged a deal with a Mexican supplier to receive 10 kilograms of cocaine, the affidavits state. Unbeknownst to Acosta, his telephone conversation with the supplier’s courier, EDWIN AMAYA, had been surreptitiously recorded by federal authorities, according to the affidavits. The wiretapped conversation revealed the location of the deal, allowing agents to track Amaya, 37, of Chicago, as he attempted to deliver the cocaine, the affidavits state. On Jan. 16, 2014, agents seized ten bricks of wrapped cocaine from Amaya’s car in an alley on the Northwest Side of Chicago, the affidavits state.
The affidavits describe another cocaine deal Acosta arranged with his Mexican supplier a few months later. Acosta’s telephone conversation with the supplier had been covertly recorded by federal authorities, allowing agents to observe and record the encounter, the affidavits state. On April 29, 2014, agents observed Acosta and the Mexican supplier’s courier, JUAN DAVILA, 20, of Cicero, conduct the transaction in the parking lot of a coffee shop in the 3900 block of West Irving Park Road in Chicago, the affidavits state. Agents later followed Davila to a residence in the 2300 block of North McVicker Avenue in Chicago, where they seized 65 kilograms of cocaine from two duffel bags stashed in a cargo van in the garage, according to the affidavits.
The affidavits describe Acosta’s extensive network of suppliers, couriers and sellers. LEONARDO HERNANDEZ, 33, of Chicago, worked as a courier for Acosta’s network and delivered drugs to its customers, according to the affidavits. Those customers included CARLOS NAVA, 42, of Chicago; RAMON MENDOZA-RAMOS, 47, of Chicago; and DANIEL RIVERA, 32, of Berwyn; each of whom received wholesale amounts of drugs from Acosta on consignment, the affidavits state. Acosta collected the money after the drugs were sold, according to the affidavits.
Acosta, Nava, Mendoza-Ramos and Hernandez were charged with conspiring with each other to knowingly and intentionally possess with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin. If convicted, they each face a maximum of life in prison and a $10 million fine.
Amaya, Rivera and Davila were each charged with knowingly and intentionally possessing a controlled substance with the intent to distribute. If convicted, they each face a maximum of life in prison and a $10 million fine.
The charges were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Dennis A. Wichern, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “The charges announced today reflect the determined work of our law enforcement partners on the Chicago Strike Force,” Mr. Fardon said. “Aggressively pursuing this type of investigation is critical to preventing the stream of narcotics into our communities.”
“The Chicago FBI office has a long and successful history of working side by side with our law enforcement partners and dedicated prosecutors to address the flow of drugs through our communities, but we know our work is far from over,” said Special Agent Holley. “Today’s charges and arrests demonstrate our commitment to continue unceasingly in those collaborative efforts.”
“Our promise is the never-ending commitment of the DEA and the Chicago Strike Force to attack and bring to justice these drug-trafficking organizations that inflict damage upon our neighborhoods and families,” Special Agent Wichern said. “I applaud all the members of the Strike Force and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their exemplary work.”
The investigation was conducted through the U.S. Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Chicago Strike Force, which consists of DEA, FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Chicago Police Department, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations Division, U.S. Marshals Service, and task force officers from various state and local law enforcement agencies, including the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department and the Illinois State Police.
The government is being represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Lindsay Jenkins, Yasmin N. Best and Jordan Palmore.
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.