Kane County prosecutors have dismissed money laundering charges against two men arrested in February after more than $201,000 hidden in a propane tank was seized from their hotel room in Aurora.
Authorities still want all the money seized -- approximately $216,000 -- forfeited to the state, but Marco A. Castaneda-Chavez, 37, of the 0-99 block of Hubbard Way, Montgomery, and Francisco J. Gil-Cardenas, 59, of the 500 block of East Munz Road, Crete, are now free.
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The charges, which prosecutors dropped Wednesday at a hearing in which Castaneda-Chavez attorney was seeking to fight his arrest, carried prison terms of four to 15 years if convicted.
They had been held at the Kane County jail since their arrest Feb. 21 outside an Aurora hotel.
"My position was there was never any voluntary consent (for a search)," said Kathleen Colton, the defense attorney for Castaneda-Chavez. "The bottom line is my client got released from custody after spending three months in jail for what I deem as very insufficient charges. I don't think that this case should have ever been charged in the first place."
Kane County prosecutors said they felt dismissing the charges was the appropriate way to proceed. They declined to elaborate.
A message left for Emilio Moretti, the defense attorney for Gil-Cardenas, was not immediately returned.
According to court documents, a Kane County sheriff's deputy was conducting surveillance outside a hotel in the 2400 block of Sullivan Road. The deputy ran plates on a Jeep Wrangler with Texas plates and learned it had crossed over the Mexico border several times in February.
The deputy later stopped two men in the Jeep and authorities found: $2,900 in the vehicle's center console; four bundles of cash on Castaneda-Chavez totaling $6,686; and four bundles on Gil-Cardenas for $5,130, according to court records.
Gil-Cardenas, who was driving, told authorities he had just bought the Jeep from Castaneda-Chavez and was going to drive it to Mexico, according to court records.
Authorities took the men back to their hotel room, and a search dog took them to a large gas grill box that appeared to have been opened and retaped, according to court documents. Inside, authorities found $201,255, according to court records.
Prosecutors are still moving forward in an effort have all the money forfeited. Castaneda-Chavez has laid claim to $6,686 of it. A hearing is scheduled July 1.