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updated: 6/28/2013 6:47 AM

O'Hare worker charged with smuggling cocaine

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A manager at a cargo and ground-service company at O'Hare International Airport was arrested this week after a federal investigation involving a government informant caught him trying to smuggle a shipment of cocaine off a flight from Mexico.

Hugo Herrera-Ruano, 41, of Northlake, was charged with possession and attempt to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine, according to a complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

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An investigation into Herrera-Ruano began in April 2007 after Homeland Security Investigations agents received information that an AeroMexico Airlines flight would be arriving at O'Hare in the evening from Guadalajara, Mexico, carrying a large quantity of narcotics, according to court documents.

A search of the cargo hold for the flight on the morning of April 28, 2007, resulted in the seizure of approximately 336 kilograms of cocaine concealed in four boxes of cargo. Questioning of employees determined that if federal agents had not intercepted the boxes, they would have been moved to the warehouse of Swissport Services, a company that has contracts for ground services with several airlines operating at O'Hare International Airport.

Herrera-Ruano was the Swissport Services manager on duty at the time of the seizure, leading federal investigators to investigate his involvement with incoming shipments of narcotics.

Herrera-Ruano, who had been employed with Swissport since 1995, worked as a manager moving cargo, much of which comes from foreign countries, in and out of the Swissport Services warehouse on the grounds of O'Hare.

The complaint also details an incident in December 2010 where Herrera-Ruano reportedly attempted to bribe another ground worker with $5,000 for information relating to a misplaced box containing 30 kilograms of cocaine. The agent refused the bribe and alerted his or her supervisor.

In September 2012 the federal agency placed a government informant in Swissport Services, working under the direction of Herrera-Ruano, who over the next six months showed the informant the layout of the airport and how to avoid security, according to the complaint.

In April 2013 the informant worked with Herrera-Ruano to smuggle a box of 10 kilograms of "sham" cocaine off an airplane and into the informant's truck. He was also caught on several recorded conversations talking about how to get around the DEA, drug dogs and other security at the airport, according to the complaint.

In the days after the April drug move, Herrera-Ruano met with the informant at a restaurant in Des Plaines. According to the complaint the informant paid Herrera-Ruano $10,000 for his help in moving the box of purported cocaine through the airport and asked him to help him with future drug moves. His actions during the investigation over the past several months and years were outlined in the complaint as probable cause for his arrest.

Herrera-Ruano appeared before Judge Maria Valdez and was ordered to be detained until his next appearance on Tuesday, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

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