A judge set bail at $1.5 million Friday for a Glen Ellyn restaurant owner accused of negotiating a $500,000 cocaine deal with undercover police officers.
Venustiano Calderon, 45, of Lombard, was among seven people arrested as they tried to carry out the transaction about 8 a.m. Thursday at La Playa Cantina, 690 Roosevelt Road, prosecutors said.
Authorities say Calderon agreed to sell 15 kilograms to undercover officers from the DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group (DuMeg) at a price of $33,000 each.
He and six associates who acted as couriers, drivers and security were arrested after displaying some of the drugs during an arranged meeting, said Assistant State's Attorney Audrey Anderson in bond court.
"The defendant later admitted he was selling the cocaine because he needed money," she told DuPage County Judge Michael Wolfe.
Anderson said Calderon came under investigation a few weeks ago, and officers received court approval to record their conversations after he provided two samples of cocaine.
On Monday, she said, Calderon agreed to supply officers with nearly $500,000 worth of the drug, which was to be exchanged for money, one kilogram at a time at the restaurant on Thursday.
Police ended up seizing four kilograms and two handguns, including one from Calderon's home on the 500 block of East 13th Place, authorities said. Anderson said most of Calderon's associates later confessed they were to be paid $500 for each kilogram that was successfully sold.
DuMeg Director Steve Loan said the operation involved the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Illinois State Police and the Addison, Glen Ellyn, Lombard, and Wood Dale police departments.
"We're happy because we've been working hard to stop the pipeline of drugs coming from Cook County across the line into DuPage, which is exactly what this was," Loan said. "We're trying to plug up all the pipelines we can."
Calderon did not address the charges in court Thursday, but said he and a brother own the restaurant.
"I do have a restaurant," Calderon said through a Spanish interpreter, "but it was slow and I didn't have money to pay bills."
In addition to Calderon, those charged with delivery of a controlled substance were: Oscar A. Colin, 26, of Cicero; Marciano M. Diaz, 41, of Chicago; Alfredo Garcia, 35, of Bolingbrook; Luis Sanchez, 30, of Chicago; Salma M. Sanchez-Hernandez, 22, of Cicero, and Luz Vidal, 33, of Chicago.
Wolfe set bails ranging from $750,000 to $1 million for each of Calderon's co-defendants. All seven suspects remained in the county jail Friday.
Attempts to reach La Playa Cantina for comment were unsuccessful Friday. The restaurant's listed phone number apparently was disconnected.