Federal prosecutors announced drug charges Wednesday against 14 suburban residents stemming from a multijurisdictional 1½-year investigation.
Six of the suspects face federal charges and are from Lake County, while another eight face state drug charges and are from Lake and Cook counties, according to U.S. District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's office.
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Investigators seized nearly three pounds of cocaine and a 2008 Cadillac Escalade as part of the ongoing investigation, federal prosecutors said. The largest seizure occurred nearly a year ago following a traffic stop on I-94 near Deerfield Road in Lake County when more than two pounds of cocaine were found in a car believed to be en route to the group's alleged ringleader, Jose Luis Chavez, prosecutors said.
The federal court papers claim Chavez, 33, of Round Lake, headed the organization that distributed cocaine throughout the northern suburbs. He is charged federally with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and $5 million fine, prosecutors said. The five other federal defendants face the same charge, according to court papers.
They include Armando Lopez, 34, of Round Lake Beach, who prosecutors said was Chavez's chief distributor of cocaine sold in smaller, multi-ounce quantities.
Joseph Garcia, 28, of Algonquin, was arrested Tuesday in Florida and is being extradited back to the Chicago area to be formally charged. Prosecutors said Garcia also distributed cocaine for Chavez.
Amber Learn, 26, Ryon Baldarez, 35, and Agustin Zeta-Marin, 29, all from Round Lake Beach, are also accused of dealing cocaine for either Chavez or Lopez, according to prosecutors. Learn has been freed on bond. The other two remain at large and have had warrants issued for their arrests, prosecutors said.
The other eight people arrested are facing some or all state charges of criminal drug conspiracy, unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and calculated criminal cannabis conspiracy. Potential prison sentences range up to 60 years, Lake County prosecutors said Wednesday.
The eight facing state charges are 46-year-old Jesus Serrano of the 1600 block of North Lake Shore Drive in Round Lake Beach; Adrian Tellez, 37, of the 1300 block of Oak Street in Round Lake Beach; Mitchell Shannon, 38, of the 3800 block of Glenview Road in Glenview; Eric Juarez, 32, of the 300 block of Kenwood Avenue in Round Lake Beach; Luis Vega, 29, of the 1500 block of Lotus Lane in Round Lake Beach; Gustavo Munoz, 35, of the 1900 block of Karen Lane in Round Lake Beach; Michael Ramirez, 37, of the 300 block of Ricard Court in Island Lake; and Gary Milem, 29, of the 25000 block of West Lakeshore Drive in Ingleside.
The eight facing state charges will appear in bond court later this week, prosecutors there said.
The investigation was conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, prosecutors said. The agencies that assisted in the investigation included the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Illinois State Police, McHenry County Sheriff's office, Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group and police departments from Round Lake Beach, Rolling Meadows, Palatine and Mundelein.
"We are happy with the efforts of all the agencies in this investigation and the culmination of the charges that were brought forth," said Round Lake Beach Deputy Police Chief Rich Chiarello. "It is not the first time that the Round Lake Beach Police Department has partnered with local, state and federal police agencies, and it won't be the last."
Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer Tony Gordon and Staff Writer Lee Filas contributed to this report.