Twenty defendants are facing federal narcotics charges here, including five alleged members of a Chicago-based cell of the Zetas Mexican drug cartel who were responsible for transporting millions of dollars in drug proceeds between Chicago and Mexico, federal law enforcement officials announced this week.
A joint investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation resulted in the charges, as well as accumulated seizures during 2010 of more than $12.4 million cash and approximately 250 kilograms of cocaine in the Chicago area. An additional $480,000 cash and two kilograms of heroin were seized Tuesday.
Federal agents yesterday executed simultaneous arrests in the Chicago area and in Laredo, Tex., of defendants stemming from the multi-jurisdiction investigation of drug-trafficking and the flow of its narcotics proceeds. Twelve of the 20 defendants indicted in Chicago were arrested in Chicago and a 13th in Laredo.
The 20 Chicago defendants were charged in five separate indictments that were returned by a federal grand jury on Nov. 2 and unsealed following the arrests. The 12 Chicago defendants arrested here Wednesday appeared in U.S. District Court and remain in federal custody pending detention hearings. Five defendants remain fugitives; one was already in federal custody and another is hospitalized.
Yesterday’s seizures of cash and heroin occurred during the arrests and execution of search warrants at the residence of one defendant in Bellwood and another defendant’s residence in Bolingbrook, as well as a safe deposit box.
All 20 Chicago defendants were charged with various narcotics offenses, including conspiracy to possess and distribute quantities of cocaine and using a telephone to facilitate narcotics trafficking. The five alleged members of the money transportation cell were also charged with conspiracy to transfer narcotics proceeds outside the United States.