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An Evanston man is one of 11 defendants charged with distributing multi-kilogram amounts of heroin and cocaine following a lengthy investigation led by federal Drug Enforcement Administation agents.

In a news release, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago said the investigation received a major break March 5 when two brothers driving a flatbed tow truck carrying a blue Honda Prelude exited the Kennedy Expressway at Armitage Avenue in Chicago and failed to stop for a red light.

Chicago police officers stopped the tow truck near the intersection of Armitage and Wolcott avenues and identified the driver and his passenger.

Noting that the Honda was registered to another individual, the officers asked if the vehicle was stolen and the driver replied that to his knowledge, it was not.

The officers subsequently seized the Honda and allowed the two men to depart in the tow truck.

Within an hour the driver of the tow truck was on the phone with a third man, telling him repeatedly that the Honda had “broken down.” After hearing some disbelief, the driver told the third man, “No, I’m telling you that the …the car was taken by the clowns, man.”

The seizure of the Honda was not at all as coincidental as it might have seemed to the three
men, however.

Department and other agencies, had been surveilling the men while they loaded the Honda onto the flatbed near 71st and Sacramento Avenue about 6:40 p.m. that evening based on listening to their intercepted telephone conversations.

Later that night, after a police canine positively indicated the Drug Enforcement Administration agents, assisted by the Chicago Police likely presence of drugs at the rear of the Honda, DEA agents obtained a federal warrant to search the car and found two boxes containing a total of approximately 20 kilograms of heroin in 20 packages.

The tow truck driver, Mario Coria, and his brother, Omar Coria, and the man they spoke to on the phone, Alberto Guadarrama, were among a total of 11 defendants, 10 whom were arrested this week on federal drug-trafficking charges.

All 11 defendants were charged with various drug distribution offenses in the complaints that were filed in U.S. District Court and unsealed following the arrests. The 10 defendants arrested appeared before Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez in U.S. District Court and remain in federal custody pending detention hearings scheduled on Monday. One defendant is a fugitive.

The arrests and charges were announced by Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Jack Riley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the DEA.

“This operation strikes down a major Mexican criminal organization that routinely distributed high quality heroin throughout the Midwest,” Mr. Riley said. “The arrests by DEA and its state and local law enforcement partners effectively dismantled a significant trafficking organization that was responsible for the distribution of multi-kilogram quantities of heroin on the streets of Chicago.”

Guadarrama, 29, of Bartlett; Mario Coria, 46, and Omar Coria, 35, both of Chicago, were charged with conspiracy to distribute multi-kilogram quantities of heroin and cocaine.

According to the affidavit in this case and others, DEA agents began receiving information in 2010 from a confidential source regarding the drug trafficking and money laundering activities of a Mexican-based drug trafficking organization.

The charges allege that Guadarrama and Mario Coria sold two kilograms of cocaine to a confidential informant in January, and all three defendants were involved in arranging for the Coria brothers in March to pick up the 20 kilograms of heroin, sent from Mexico.

Other defendants charged separately as a result of this investigation are as follows:

Juan Vigil, 65, of Houston, charged with distributing 1.5 kilograms of heroin, supplied by the Mexican-based organization, to a confidential informant at a hotel near Midway Airport in Chicago on Jan. 22 of this year.

Domingo Macedo Jr., 42, of Chicago, charged with possession with intent to distribute a kilo of cocaine on Jan. 7.

Miguel Beltran, 36, of Chicago, charged with possession with intent to distribute a kilo of cocaine on Dec. 23, 2011.

Lorenzo Trujillo, 22, of Evanston, charged with possession with intent to distribute a kilo of cocaine on Dec. 22.

Victor Manuel Contreras, 43, of Elgin; Mario Ortiz, 34, of Elgin; Orlando Penaloza, 28, of Harvard, Ill.; and Miguel Ortuna-Gomez, 30, of Madison, Wis., were charged in a four-count complaint. The charges allege
that Contreras delivered three kilos of cocaine to Ortiz on June 5 of this year, and later the same day, Ortiz delivered the same three kilos of cocaine to Penaloza. Later still on June 5, Contreras delivered two additional kilos of cocaine to Ortiz, and Ortiz delivered that cocaine to Ortuno-Gomez. Ortuno-Gomez is the only defendant who is a fugitive.

During the course of the investigation, the DEA seized approximately 21.5 kilograms of heroin and five kilograms of cocaine.

Defendants Contreras, Mario and Omar Coria, Guadarrama, Ortiz, and Vigil face a mandatory minimum of 10 years to a maximum of life in prison and a $10 million fine, while defendants Beltran, Macedo, Ortuno-Gomez, Penaloza, and Trujillo face a mandatory minimum of five years to a maximum of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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